Most of us, when we think of NASA, think of an organization that’s at the center of space innovation. What many don’t realize is that NASA has long been a leader in crowdsourcing innovation. In fact, NASA works with Topcoder on a variety of projects! In the 97th episode of the popular program “Houston, We Have A Podcast,” the official podcast of the NASA Johnson Space Center, Lynn Buquo, Manager, and Steve Rader, Deputy Manager of NASA’s Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI) recently shared with host Pat Ryan how NASA began and built one of the most successful open innovation programs we’ve seen to date, based on crowdsourcing.
CoECI Paves the Way for Crowdsourcing
Founded in 2011, CoECI supported NASA in its effort to present questions to and get solutions from a global community of talent. Rader says NASA wanted to gather new ideas, information and processes from Topcoder’s 1.5 million software developers and data scientists. Here are highlights from the conversation:
- NASA began crowdsourcing in 2005, both publicly and through government agencies.
- As technology has evolved, how crowdsourcing has evolved too.
- NASA utilizes companies like Topcoder to find the most passionate experts in niche areas for specific projects.
- CoECI also hosts public competitions that encapsulate all aspects of crowdsourcing.
- People who take part in the competitions are sometimes motivated by the prize money, but recognition amongst their peers is a big motivator, too.
- Companies like Topcoder break down the barriers and hierarchies of who is “supposed to” own knowledge versus those who actually have new ideas.
Crowdsourcing, to Infinity and Beyond
In today’s fast-paced digital world, knowledge is currency and crowdsourcing offers unprecedented access to knowledge through its global talent networks. “Ninety percent of all scientists that have ever lived are alive and working today,” says Rader. Many of these scientists work through crowdsourcing platforms like Topcoder.
Check out the podcast if you’re interested in learning more about how NASA accessed top global talent through its crowdsourcing journey.