Business Model Focuses on Collaboration, Innovation
An Interview with IdeaConnection Founder and CEO, Scott Wurtele
It is increasingly necessary for small and medium sized companies to rely on open collaboration models to maintain their competitive edge. Even large companies are innovating outside their traditional R&D departments by seeking new ways to connect with world-class experts and leaders in creativity and innovation.
is the brainchild of Scott Wurtele, CEO.
Vern Burkhardt (VB):
What are business leaders telling you about the importance of innovation to their success?
It is now common knowledge that innovation and problem solving are critical to the success of any business. In our evolving digital economy there is an increasing need to access new technologies and adapt to changing conditions in the marketplace. Competition is becoming more intense, but there are more opportunities for those companies that accept the challenge. Some go so far as to say "Innovation at an ever faster pace is the number one key to success." And that means accessing the great minds throughout the world, not just those in our business or close geographic area.
What is your vision for IdeaConnection?
We are creating an extremely effective innovation and collaborative problem solving service.
How is IdeaConnection achieving its mission?
Thousands of the world’s great minds are registering
to work on interesting problems through our online problem solving collaborative "ThinkSpace".
If I have a business problem or an idea that needs further research and development, what advantage would be gained by going to IdeaConnection for help rather than a local consulting firm?
Using IdeaConnection is usually less expensive, provides access to a broader range of talent, and often comes up with an innovative solution faster.
How do you find and pre-qualify experts or what IdeaConnection calls "Problem Solvers"?
Hundreds of thousands of people are visiting IdeaConnection.com for news and information about the world of innovation. While visiting, they learn about paid contract work available.
Experts are selected primarily for their knowledge, problem solving skills, innovation, problem experience, and ability to work collaboratively.
You also provide facilitators and team leaders for projects. Do you use the same process to identify qualified facilitators?
Many certified, world-class facilitators have signed up
. What we are especially seeking is online acumen.
Outsourcing of repetitive business processes, such as accounts payable, help desks or running application systems, is not a new idea. Outsourcing of problem solving and innovation seems to be a relatively new concept. Do you think this is growing trend?
Not yet. The corporate world is just awakening to the availability of such resources.
Would you tell us about IdeaConnection’s ThinkSpace?
We have created a space, a flow, and online tools that encourage problem solving, creativity and innovation. Our continually evolving ThinkSpace offers a gentle discipline to the participants, which encourages the nurturing of all their ideas. Traditional thinking tools are available for those who chose to use them. It has online video and voice, a whiteboard, the ability to post documents, a wiki, the ability to see what other participants are contributing, and much more. Participants can work collaboratively or independently.
How does someone who wants to use your roster of experts go about it?
Scott Wurtele: Register
After registering, the Solution Seeker then enters a very brief description of the problem, what has to happen for a solution to be acceptable, the amount of money they would pay for a satisfactory solution, and a time limit.
IdeaConnection emails the member experts whose profiles show they have relevant knowledge and skills. They are asked if they are interested in working on this problem and they are told the minimum amount of money each will receive if, and only if, the Solution Seeker accepts their solution.
From those interested, IdeaConnection accepts three to eight people. Each is then invited to sign a non-disclosure and intellectual property agreement that has been supplied by the Solution Seeker. With this in place, the Problem Solvers are given access to the ThinkSpace where the Solution Seeker will have entered extensive data about the problem.
The Solution Seeker or their staff may, or may not, choose to participate in the problem solving process.
Problem Solvers work on the problem, often with feedback from the Solution Seeker. One or more solutions are presented. If the Solution Seeker accepts a solution, the funds, net of a service fee retained by IdeaConnection, are divided evenly among the team members. If there is no satisfactory solution the funds, net of a service fee, are returned to the Solution Seeker.
Other valuable things often happen. Friendships are established, creativity and learning occurs, and job opportunities open up.
VB: How do the Solution Seeker and Problem Solvers reach an agreement on how much the solution will cost? Do they negotiate an arrangement in advance of the work starting?
Scott Wurtele: No. As the Solution Seeker you set the price you are willing to pay. To say the obvious, the price offered needs to be high enough to encourage world-class Problem Solvers to want to take on the challenge but ultimately it is up to the person or business seeking the solution to decide what the solution would be worth to them.
VB: Who owns the resulting intellectual property?
Scott Wurtele: The typical situation is that the Solution Seeker owns the intellectual property if he accepts the solution. Of course the Solution Seeker and Problem Solvers are free to make alternative arrangements if they so choose. An example might be that certain intellectual property rights are shared or jointly owned, but any such arrangement would have to be specified in the agreement between the parties.
VB: Problems can be posted and worked on for the public good. Would you talk about that? Why does IdeaConnection offer this service?
Scott Wurtele: There are many problems where solutions would make life better for large numbers of people.
For example, the world is presently producing 20 percent more protein than we need to feed everyone on the planet. The movement, distribution and disbursement of this food are problems no one has been able to solve. By working on it at IdeaConnection, we facilitate the collaboration of extremely diverse minds. Let’s see what happens.
This is a free service and many Problem Solvers have volunteered to work here. It’s available because many people want it.
VB: The IdeaConnection website provides a number of other services as well. Would you talk about a few of them?
Scott Wurtele: We have a section that provides "Idea Books" that will likely inspire the reader—a short summary of the book is provided and, unlike Amazon, many include an interview with the author that explores ideas beyond the book.
There are Technologies for Sale or License, Technologies Wanted, Inventions for Sale, Funding Requests. The site also contains information about Idea Contests and Prizes, upcoming Conferences and Conventions, and a list of recent interesting Inventions.
VB: You have been described as being highly creative. How do you come up with new ideas and how do you decide which are good ideas? What do you do with all of your good ideas?
Scott Wurtele: To have great ideas the number one rule is to have many ideas. Do not judge any idea in its infancy. Respect absurdity. Be willing to tolerate chaos. Give ideas space to grow. Give ideas away. Know that ideas are collaborative and watch them being nurtured. Give yourself space and time to think. Always keep a pen and paper or laptop handy.
VB: It has been said that too often in our busy lives we don’t set aside time to think. Would you talk about the benefits of thinking time?
Scott Wurtele: There is disciplined thinking and there is the freedom of allowing thoughts, images, gestalts, and associations to form. I find a bit of meditation or mental yoga of value and enjoy noticing the beginning of a thought, the end of a thought and the space between thoughts. It’s hard to do that if you are busy.
The benefits of thinking time? The greatest benefits may come in no-thinking time, when your mind is not busy chattering. Your subconscious can then come forth with incredible, unexpected ideas. My office desktop is empty. When I enter my office I don’t see a pile of work. I am open.
VB: You have been an entrepreneur most of your life. Would you talk about your first business venture?
Scott Wurtele: When I was seven, I made up and sold my own lottery tickets to the neighbors, not knowing it was illegal.
I had a couple of failed businesses before I had five successful businesses.
VB: What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur?
Scott Wurtele: Willingness to accept risk. A successful entrepreneur needs confidence in his ideas, the strength of a clear vision, the humility to know that reality is going to bash the heck out of it, and the fortitude to continually question, continually adjust, and continually create.
VB: Have the secrets to your success changed over the past twenty to thirty years?
Scott Wurtele: There are no secrets. Judgment may improve with experience.
VB: What motivates you, what rewards do you receive from being an entrepreneur?
Scott Wurtele: Discontent with what I have is a prime motivator. And I thoroughly enjoy the feeling of a new business being born and becoming successful. I meet and work with great people. I believe it is good to let your reach exceed your grasp.
VB: What do you do in your spare time, or do you have any spare time?
Scott Wurtele: I have lots of spare time. I enjoy reading about a hundred non-fiction books a year on diverse subjects. I have just read: Love and Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships by David Levy, Survival of the Sickest: The Surprising Connections Between Disease and Longevity by Dr. Sharon Moalem, Mine’s Bigger: Tom Perkins and the Making of the Greatest Sailing Machine Ever Built by David Kaplan, My Stroke of Insight” A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Taylor, Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes by Mark J. Penn and Kinney Zalesne, Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear by Daniel Gardner, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky, and Ranulph Fiennes' autobiography Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know. I recommend them all.
VB: IdeaConnection publishes a weekly newsletter that is free to subscribers. What is the purpose of the newsletter and what type of content does it have?
Scott Wurtele: The newsletter contains interviews with great thinkers, and information about collaboration, thinking and innovation. It mentions new conferences, contests, books, thinking software, ideas for sale, technologies wanted, specific Problem Solvers we are seeking, and fascinating new inventions.
VB: Could any of our readers contribute to the newsletter?
Scott Wurtele: Absolutely. Please keep sending in news, books or book recommendations, press releases and great videos.
We also welcome technologies for license and any new, creative, and innovative ideas.
We invite our readers to submit an article about creativity, innovation, problem solving or other related topics for publication in the newsletter. Or they may wish to become a regular contributor of articles.
VB: If someone wants to invest by buying shares in IdeaConnection and become part of the financial action?
Scott Wurtele: IdeaConnection.com is the website of Online Data Services Ltd., a limited company registered in British Columbia, Canada. We welcome investment inquiries. And I will personally respond to every inquiry.
Outsourcing of innovation and problem solving has the potential to become a mega-trend. Not every business can afford an R&D department, and world-class ideas and innovation may not be forthcoming from their employees, even if the company culture encourages innovation and creativity. Outsourcing to local consulting firms is commonplace but has limitations. IdeaConnection takes things into the future by offering easy, rapid access to Problem Solvers worldwide, on an “as needed” basis, and at an affordable price.
Scott Wurtele is the founder and CEO of IdeaConnection. In 1997 he founded WorldBid.com, an international trade website that has handled a million trade leads. He sold WorldBid.com in 2000 and then founded LawyersandSettlements.com, a website that has helped hundreds of thousands of people connect with the legal resources they need. LawyersandSettlements.com was sold in 2008. Wurtele has been an entrepreneur all his life and is a student of creativity and innovation. He is an avid sailor and downhill ski enthusiast.
I would appreciate receiving feedback about this, or any of my other articles on the IdeaConnection.com website. [Please write me] with any comments or suggestions.
If you would like me to interview you about an article or book you have written, or an interesting idea, or a business you are involved with, [please let me know].
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