Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Wikinomics - Ideagoras

So we’re on to the “ideagora” which, if you remember your Greek (I don’t) uses the word for market (agora) to produce something that means (surprise!) “idea market.”
So What?
And so it is. Don Tapscott tells the story of InnoCentive, an idea market launched by Eli Lilly in 2001. InnoCentive allows companies to post research problems that member scientists (who number more than 90,000 in 175 countries) can crack in exchange for cash rewards. A quick look at the InnoCentive site reveals that the current maximum reward is $1 million–quite a motivator. (The more relevant question, of course, is the average reward, which the site doesn’t reveal.)
The notion behind ideagoras seems to be to treat the world as a big part of your enterprise R&D lab. Use your internal R&D people–who understand your customers–to come up with the blue-sky ideas (we should sell platinum saltines!) and leave the down-to-earth problems (how do we get the salt to stick to the little squares?) for the ideagoras. Of course, one happy implication of this approach is that (other things equal) your R&D budget will shrink.
At the limit, Don Tapscott imagines a market of eBay-like proportions with people submitting both problems and solutions (patents) for general review and consumption. In his mind, such a market will drive innovation at a much faster pace than we’ve ever seen. I suspect that that’s probably true.
Now, one tiny problem with ideagoras (I feel we should get it out on the table) is that specifying a problem often presupposes a certain type of solution. In other words, getting the salt to stick might (to you) be a difficult materials science problem…but if it were reconceived as a chemistry problem, it might become easy. The unfortunate part is that you’re going to categorize the problem under “Materials Science” when you post it to the ideagora, and it’s possible that no chemist will ever see it.
In any case. Ideagoras seem to represent a powerful new approach to innovation and if you’re intrigued, I urge you to pick up
Wikinomics and read about them in more depth. Not to do so…would be hubris.

1 comment:

Liz Moise said...

You make a great point here about how the way in which you phrase a question, presuposes the source of the answer. At InnoCentive we actually have a team of folks who help our clients phrase problems (or "Challenges" as we call them) in such a way that the solution can come from any angle. In fact we find that many of our breakthrough solutions come from outside the industry that they were posted in.

If you ever want more information on InnoCentive feel free to contact me.

Liz Moise
Marketing Manager