Okay so here’s the second thing that’s been keeping me from blogging for a long time. I know I said HackFWD was the most interesting client project I’ve ever worked on, but this is hands down the coolest thing I’ve worked on in my professional career so far. OpenIDEO is a new offer for IDEO, and we launched on 2nd August. OpenIDEO is a crowd sourced innovation platform to solve the world’s tough challenges. Check it out at: http://bit.ly/dvxj4u.

Network innovation as a way of outsourcing your innovation department
During our initial internal–only beta, we had a few aha moments. The internal challenge was to design the logo for the site. A lot of people really engaged with the challenge, and to our surprise, the people that engaged with it did not come from one particular group, such as the communication designers, or from one level within the company. Instead it was a mix of seniority and discipline. This had the remarkable effect of levelling the creative participation on a global scale for the company. It was the first time you could see – in realtme – intracompany creativity and collaboration. Creatives communicate their ideas in different ways, and people within IDEO projects generally have different roles. But this challenge caused everyone to communicate either visually or with text and for roles to become irrelevant. As we often say at IDEO, it allowed people to “leave their role at the door”. Another delightful aspect was interacting with people who I only knew by their email address, suddenly I could see something unique: their creative contribution, and from that I got a glimpse of how they thought.

We are hoping to offer other organizations the opportunity to use the OpenIDEO platform for internal employee engagement and tap their own collective wisdom and creativity. Having helped many large organizations create their own innovation capabilities, I know that it’s always a challenge to balance your company’s innovation goals with the resources available. How could a platform like this help to reduce innovation costs whilst increasing your collective insight and ultimately be smarter so you can deliver new ideas and improve what you do? Could it even help you understand who your organization is?

Drive & motivation / aligning incentives
Clay Shirky talks about the Cognitive Surplus in his new book of the same name. He talks about the phenomenon that we actually have a huge amount of spare time, and the platforms exist now to tap into that potential resource – he estimates 2 billion hours per year for North America alone). In order to motivate people to engage, you need to find ways to motivate them to have shared conversations, and to ensure the ‘exchange’ is a logical and fair one. With OpenIDEO we’ve tried to do just that. By focussing on challenges  that are ultimately about improving social issues that either we all face (or those less fortunate than us do) we’re tapping into people’s innate desire to make a difference. Additionally we’re hoping that the platform will provide a way for aspiring creatives to build up a portfolio and show off their work. To enable this, we created a thing called the DQ, or the Design Quotient. DQ is not a measure of how good you are at design, but a way to understand and communicate which parts of the OpenIDEO process you’re good at. We figure that everyone’s unique, and their skills might lie more in how ‘Inspiring’ they are, others with how amazing their concepts are, or how good a critical evaluator they are.

So where next? We’re lining up a really exciting array of challenges for the next 6 months, but we’re open to new ones, so get in touch if you are an organization that has a social challenge that could benefit from some large scale creative collaboration, or if you’ve got lessons that you’ve learned from your own experiments in this area, please share.

And most of all, I hope you enjoy OpenIDEO, we’ve certainly enjoyed building it, but we need your feedback to make it better. Email us at hello@openideo.com.