The Ins and Outs of Challenge Brokering; A Perspective From the Inside

Posted by Lisa Reinhold on Jun 27, 2008 2:56:52 PM

I recently received this piece from Gabriel Eichler, one of our Client Services team members, and I wanted to share it with you all. He goes into detail on the important role that InnoCentive plays as a broker between the Seeker and you the Solver:

As most of our clients and members of our community already know, InnoCentive plays an important role in brokering Open Innovation interactions between Seeker organizations and you, our network of talented Solvers. Brokering such transactions is difficult since InnoCentive serves as a two-way firewall between the Seeker organization and Solver by keeping all parties anonymous throughout the process while simultaneously ensuring the integrity of the interaction. It occurred to me, however, that since most individuals interact with InnoCentive as either a Seeker or a Solver (and rarely both), they are unfamiliar with the actions undertaken by InnoCentive’s Client Services Team on behalf of both parties. To improve the understanding of both our Seekers and Solvers, I’ve dedicated this blog entry to a brief discussion on how InnoCentive’s Client Services Team supports these innovation interactions.

The primary responsibility of InnoCentive in its role as a trusted transaction broker is to provide clear expectations of both parties and to facilitate an efficient and equitable outcome for all parties. In that spirit, the InnoCentive Client Services Team’s first task is to draft a Challenge statement that provides sufficiently descriptive technical details while not disclosing any of the Seeker’s confidential information. We are extremely respectful of the Seeker’s need for anonymity and that their R&D activities remain confidential. However, we attempt to maximize the probability of successfully solving every InnoCentive Challenge by providing you with as many of the problem’s details and context as possible. We therefore work hard with Seekers to ensure that we’re describing the problem as completely as possible while not disclosing proprietary information. Similarly, all Challenges include a clear “Specific Requirements”section which clearly states the attributes of a successful solution and ensures that the Seeker has explicit and unambiguous expectations of the Solvers.

Once the Challenge is posted to the InnoCentive Marketplace, as a community, you are quick to open up virtual Project Rooms, and get working. Frequently however ,you have questions about the Challenge and post a confidential message inside the Project Rooms. The Client Services Team works tirelessly to address the messages posted by Solvers - last year alone, we responded to nearly 7000 messages. Since the Client Services Team members who field these questions are PhD-level scientists and they are intimately familiar with the content of the Challenges, they are usually able to answer the questions without gathering addition information from the Seeker. However, when necessary, we do pass questions along to the Seeker to get clarification on outstanding issues. Throughout this whole process, we continue to maintain the anonymity of the Seeker and avoid discussing superfluous or proprietary details on the Challenge’s larger R&D context.

It is important to appreciate the balance struck by our Client Services Team. We, of course, want to see the ultimate success of every Challenge posted. Therefore, we try to provide the maximum amount of background information to the Solvers while still respecting our Seeker’s need for anonymity and confidentiality of some Challenge details. For first-time Solvers unfamiliar with InnoCentive’s Open Innovation process, it may feel unnatural to innovate within the context of missing (and proprietary) background information. We fully recognize and appreciate the difficulty of operating within that environment, so we do our best provide as much information as possible.

In our seven years of experience in brokering Open Innovation Challenge/Solution transactions, we believe that we have developed a system that balances the Seeker’s needs to maintain confidentiality and anonymity while providing the Solver with the highest possible chance of developing a winning solution.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on our interaction with you, as a Solver. If you’ve worked on Challenges, what has your experience been with the Client Services Team?

Lisa

Topics: Challenges

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