Idea Rallies Yield Breakthrough Thinking

March 18, 2013 By Paul Arnold

IdeaConnection develops a new model of open innovation to generate breakthrough thinking and solve problems.

Crowdsourcing is a powerful engine that can fuel better problem solving, faster innovation, and novel thinking. The concept first came to the public’s attention in a June 2006 issue of Wired magazine. It is defined as “the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.”

Opening up a problem to a pool of diverse talent can lead to huge gains.  From naming brands and halting disease epidemics to discovering planets and creating new products, examples of successful crowdsourcing are everywhere.

Disadvantages of Crowdsourcing

However, despite the hype and the success stories clear problems have emerged.  Crowdsourcing is also associated with weak and shallow solutions from people who don’t invest the time or fail to understand the nature of the challenge. And the volume of ideas makes it costly and counterproductive for a company to evaluate each and every one.

The difficulties are not with the concept, but its execution. So how can you ensure that when you engage a crowd you really are tapping into its wisdom?

Open innovation marketplace IdeaConnection has the answer with the development of a new model of crowdsourcing called an IdeaRally®.  It offers a more intelligent approach to working with the crowd and delivers fully formed and robust ideas.

What is an IdeaRally®?

An IdeaRally® is a week-long virtual think tank involving a diverse group of innovators from all over the world. They generate peer reviewed ideas and in-depth discussions around a company’s key R&D interests.  When organisations host a really they have direct access to a pool of experts focused solely on their needs.

The rally is confidential and only seen by those who have registered and been accepted to participate. It is a swift and cost-effective way of acquiring world-class thinking and applying it to a problem.

An IdeaRally® can also tap into emerging thoughts about the industry a company is in. This allows it to get ahead of current thinking and find out where markets are heading. These vital discussions can influence where businesses spend their research dollars.

Success Story

“An IdeaRally® is a valuable mode to build on ideas and provide feedback,” says Joe Byrum, head of Soybeans R&D at Syngenta, one of the world’s largest agribusiness companies.

Frustrated by poor experiences with ideation contests that are often nothing more than glorified suggestion boxes, Syngenta launched an IdeaRally® for a longstanding crop yield problem.

IdeaConnection turned to its huge network of solvers and recruited rally participants from a wide range of disciplines. They were asked to come up with ideas on how to solve a crop yield problem.

The rally lasted for seven exciting days of intellectual activity.  During that time solvers debated and voted on their ideas, putting them through a rigorous peer-review process.  Facilitators highlighted the most promising ones to elicit further discussions in those areas.

To incentivize and inspire the crowd two daily prizes of $1,000 were given to solvers who made the best contributions. The financial awards were not necessarily for the best ideas, as the aim was to encourage further discussion. So on occasion some people earned $1,000 dollars just for submitting a comment, but it was a remark that really provoked people’s thinking.  

Breakthrough Thinking

The net result was that Syngenta received fresh idea from people they wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to collaborate with.  It was also very cost-efficient as the company’s research staff connected with people worldwide without leaving their offices.

The exercise also rejuvenated Syngenta’s own conversations, taking their scientists down brand new avenues.

Byrum said his staff had been “struggling forever” on a crop yield problem until they participated in the rally. “Eight of our scientists got so excited they continued the discussion after it ended so that was worth more than the price of admission.”  His team was rejuvenated as they came up with their own ideas. “It was like sending them to a real in-depth conference but virtually,” adds Byrum.

For solvers, Idea Rallies provide a host of benefits.  In addition to the financial rewards many are drawn to participate for how it can stimulate them.

“Working on and building on the ideas of other contributors was extremely enjoyable,” says rally participant Dr. Ryan Fink. “The plurality of perspectives on a certain idea can open new directions of thoughts and, ultimately, stimulate the creativity.”

Smarter Crowdsourcing

Syngenta’s success with their IdeaRally® offers a tantalising glimpse of how collaborative research and discovery stage research might happen in the future.  First of all, companies can solicit ideas from the crowd without the process inundating their research staff.  

Secondly, participation in a rally is not just about coming up with specific solutions to problems per se; it can also help point arrows at the right targets.  
An IdeaRally® is a more intelligent from of crowdsourcing, less of a short in the dark and more of a bull’s-eye.