I believe it was Scary Spice who first uttered the genius that is; “Tell me whatcha want, what ya really, really want!”. Perhaps that was Ginger, either way, Ace of Base was far better. In Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing we are seeing a rise of enterprises and government agencies that “really want to crowdsource”, but they might not know exactly why they want to, other than they believe it can help them innovate faster and on less spend. We of course applaud this movement as all boats rise in an environment and market such as this. But beyond the hype or macro-generalities, let’s dedicate a few paragraphs to discuss what you really, really want in Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing as it pertains to digital asset creation. At TopCoder, we have 3 pillars of digital asset creation. Let’s quickly define each. The Front End of Innovation spans everything from Idea and Concept Generation all the way through the prototyping stage. This includes such contests that generate assets that are storyboards, UI/UX architecture, wireframes and more. Software Development is the “magic” you can’t see or touch (unless you are a coder of course) that brings ideas and prototypes from the front-end, and makes them real. There are scores of varying software languages, techniques and best practices in the greater software development space. Algorithms & Analytics are how the world treats data and code to make things “smarter”, faster, more compressed and more illuminating. In short Algorithms power complex computations, and computations make better sense and better use of data, creating analytics that can offer an enterprise a competitive advantage. To find out more about how TopCoder spans the entire digital life-cycle and the three pillars of digital creation, click here.
It is incredibly important to realize that the 3 pillars of digital creation are often interconnected, but it is equally important to realize they are quite different, and therefore what you should really want in each pillar will vary greatly as well. What You Really Want in: The Front End of Innovation One-word answer… vision. If you are utilizing an Open Innovation community or Crowdsourcing for designs or concepts or any element that falls into your FEI, you are seeking greater vision. As a manager or director of an open innovation initiative, you should be seeking as many paths forward as you can possibly attain. You don’t want just one “look and feel”, you should pour over tens and dozens if they are available to you. You don’t want a shortage of user-experience paths or a lack of design concepts that inspire. Instead you want your hands on as many quality potential solutions and ideas that you can effectively manage. When you see more options, more designs, more concepts, you can make better decisions as you role your digital asset out of a prototyping stage and into the back-end of software development. That, in a word, is vision.
What You Really Want in: Software Development Two-word answer… predictability and consistency. Unlike your FEI, when you are having software developed through an open innovation or community that utilizes Crowdsourcing to produce the assets, you don’t need or particularly want dozens of submissions. Instead you optimally want 2. You want a well written, cleanly performing winning solution and you want a back-up solution that is equally eloquent. You also really, really want amazing documentation for this code so you can more quickly spin up future versions and updates. By having code developed on a platform like TopCoder you get the purposeful redundancy needed that delivers to you software that is consistently strong and clean. When you can predict success and depend on quality code stemming from your open innovation community, you move projects forward, faster, more often.
What You Really Want in: Algorithms & Analytics Three-word answer… extreme value outcomes. Incrementally improving your analytics and algorithmic capability is important, but it is not this incremental approach you should be after in Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing. Instead, you should be focused on the leaps. You want big solutions that are not attainable traditionally. You want solutions that bring improvements in orders of magnitude better and you want them delivered at a pace no traditional source can come close to delivering. When you can expose your data sets and analytics challenges to an open innovation community, the results can be dramatically impactful. Getting hundreds of data scientists and mathematicians around your challenge in a competitive format procures extreme value outcomes, and that is what you are after. As we mentioned earlier, there is an undeniable rise in the amount of interest surrounding Crowdsourcing and Open innovation. But it is imperative that you and your enterprise quickly get passed the “we are going to crowdsource!” euphoria, and concentrate instead on what you are seeking to accomplish. Hopefully when your enterprise decides to engage in Crowdsourcing and Open Innovation, this piece will help you hone in on whatcha really, really want.
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