Idea Rally®: A Wiki-like Discussion
Interview with IdeaConnection Facilitator Teresa Michelsen
By Jane Mundy
Teresa Michelsen didn't expect a lot when she signed up to facilitate an Idea Rally® with IdeaConnection, which made the outcome a pleasant surprise, to say the least. "Idea Rally® is probably the most inclusive discussion I have ever participated in, which is why it was so exciting," says Michelsen.
She describes Idea Rally® as a preliminary vetting of ideas, a step before getting to the problem solvers, the solution-oriented teams. "It is a new way of getting broader input worldwide," Michelsen explains. "Not only did it generate a lot of ideas, but I found it fascinating, even though I don't live in the biotech world where everyone else participating in the crop yield rally lives, breathes and works," she adds with a chuckle.
Michelsen likens Idea Rally® to a kind of wiki-like discussion that is becoming more widespread and acknowledged as the next best step in open innovation. "I think that the way we are generating data is like coming up with cloudthink, but IdeaConnection® makes it so much more fun and it also comes with financial rewards," Michelsen explains. But on the flip side, she believes that you have to put in about three or four hours a day (a rally typically lasts one week) to stay on top of it, to make it work.
"I found the design of the software fascinating insofar as it influences the discussion, such as the way prizes were offered," Michelsen says. "We had to figure out how to adjust both software and prizes to produce the results and the kind of discussion we were after. In other words, the system affects the way people participate.
"The Idea Rally® software is designed so that you could tell when an idea was new. I would then review the data and encourage discussion amongst the group. Then halfway through Idea Rally® I decided it was time to ask specific questions and narrow in, to remind everyone they could win prizes for communicating with each other. At first they thought a prize was forthcoming just for who had the best idea. One thing IdeaConnection® could do was post messages or notices, informing people that collaboration was encouraged and prizes were given out for the best conversation, contribution and collaboration with other peoples' ideas. And that is when it got better – things got less competitive and we got honest evaluations of whether or not something was viable."
Michelsen is an avid birdwatcher and likens Idea Rally® to ebird.com, a wildly popular site with birders who contribute bird sightings on a global database. "Whether it is ebird.com or Idea Rally®, a researcher can use that data, but the question is whether it is quality data," she explains. "Both are both communally created and electronically facilitated. But there is randomness in life and Idea Rally® is rather like that. You don't know everyone's credentials and you don't know the sponsor, but the outcome is truly amazing. I'm really looking forward to another Idea Rally® – count me in."