January 14, 2013 3 Videos You Have to See: How an Open Innovation Community Created Assets for an Open Innovation Community

How would an Open Innovation community such as TopCoder go about having professional web video created for our site? Well, it’s a pretty simple answer when you think about it. We of course tapped a super-talented community of video professionals and hosted an open competition. Now, you might be saying, sure this is old hat by now. Need something, launch a contest, get something – What’s the big deal? The big deal is what this process of open innovation and crowdsourcing delivers. Read this post, watch these videos and understand why this was not only the right way for our company to have videos created, but it was also the best way.
Tongal Logo
Tongal was the community of choice. They’ve helped brands like McDonald’s, LEGO, Pringles, Olay and many more get creative web videos via contests they host for their clientele. Call it Crowdsourcing, call it Open Innovation – it really doesn’t matter, because it’s about the results and the empowerment of their community members to utilize their special skills to create something wonderful.

Directing an Open Innovation Competition – Best Practices

We’ve previously shared posts and insights on how to effectively manage Open Innovation competitions, and this experience was quite similar to running a creative contest on our TopCoder Studio platform. It began by describing the macro goals of the competition including the core messages we felt the winning video must convey. We laid out branding guidelines, preferred color schemes and if there was any specific data or information we knew we wanted included; we shared that as well. In our case, this included specific information about our 3 pillars of digital creation, how atomized competitions work, and a few links to pages from our site we felt the competitors should familiarize themselves with. But beyond that, we purposefully laid off on providing too much detail. In Open Innovation, you want to trust the community you are working with and part of that trust – especially in subjective contests – is leaving ample room for interpretation so the creatives can do what they do best, create. Soon – delivered on the exact deadline Tongal had established – we had received our initial pitches from more than a handful of would be video makers. There was an impressive array of ideas and pitches delivered and now it was up to our team to choose 2 directions we thought were best.

** Please note Tongal can structure contests in which you choose more than 2, but this was the set # we pre-determined prior to launching the contest.

When choosing our 2 pitches to move forward we took a lot into consideration and it went well beyond the pitches and ideas. We looked at the history of the creatives, poured over other videos they had submitted to Tongal and work they had done that was shared with us via Vimeo or YouTube. Why? Why wouldn’t we just go off of the pitches? Well, it’s one thing to have a good idea, it’s another to have proven that you have exceptional skills and can execute in your domain like few others can. We had a tough decision to make. One of the pitches felt a little vapid, but looking at that creator’s previous history told us that they simply needed good direction to execute. Seeing this same phenomenon happen in our design contests – where sometimes a very talented designer just “misses” with a first attempt BUT it is evident their skills are rather exceptional – we knew the right path was to trust our ability to steer this competition and to select that person’s pitch, even though we knew it needed a sincere edit. The other selection was easier. A team submitted a whimsical concept and we believed they could pull it off nicely. So, we gave the greenlight to our two pitches and waited for our videos to return. The key to this early stage is to be honest with your competitors. We had to do two VERY separate things. For one competitor, we congratulated him on moving on and we provided scores of feedback, ideas, and direction we thought he could incorporate into his concept video. The other, we simply congratulated and offered very light feedback, encouraging them to push the medium they had chosen to work in as much as they believed they could. Very different approaches were needed in order to let these very different competitors shine. A big takeaway here is that because we knew we had redundancy built into the very process, it allowed us to greenlight the “riskier” concept, knowing that even if it failed to deliver, the other “safer” video would still be strong.

The Delight of Surprise & Variety

In late December – again on the date pre-specified by Tongal – we received our first version of the videos. We were blown away with the quality and the very varied takes we received. Yes, we recognized a few changes we would want to ask for, but overall the 2 videos were on a great path. On top of this, we received a 3rd submission that we were not at all expecting called a “wildcard” submission in the world of Tongal, and this video was equally interesting, and again completely different! As a team, we shared the creations and gathered internal feedback and the more we watched these videos, the more evident it became that certain videos “nailed” certain aspects of what we were attempting to communicate, while other videos did a superior job in other sections. One video we felt was the most solid all around, another video did an amazing job of describing how competition works on TopCoder, and the wildcard video created a tremendous visual experience showcasing the 3 pillars of digital creation! Now the only question we had was – Could we use all three AND could we ask for an additional edit on 2 of the 3, to shorten them to focus on the section(s) we felt were the strongest? The answers were yes, we could do exactly that. So, we did. We ended up with 3 very unique videos that will now help us tell our story much more effectively. And as far as the quality and ingenuity of the videos, we can tell you how we feel, but it’s better to simply show you the extraordinarily well crafted videos. They are just below, please enjoy.

What is EOI? – The Power of Enterprise Open Innovation

The 3 Pillars of Digital Creation at TopCoder

How Open Innovation Competitions Work on TopCoder

Let us leave you with this notion. This post isn’t about our new marketing videos. If that were the case, this post would have been 225 words and not 1,200. This post is about your success and your understanding of how to approach, manage, iterate within, and wholly execute successful crowdsourced contests. There is a world of talent waiting to innovate for you and we hope this detailed post helps you do all the little things well in open innovation that add up to a resoundingly successful competition and process for repeatable crowdsourcing success. Special and deserved thanks to the Tongal community for their participation and creations throughout this process. Well done.

image credit: tongal.com, freephotosbank.com, colinjbrowne.com

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