The InnoCentive Insider: Why do we call them Solution REQUIREMENTS?

Posted by Connie French on Dec 3, 2008 11:53:50 AM

In today's Client Services post, Eugene provides some insider advice for submitting a successful solution to an InnoCentive Challenge.

My name is Eugene Ivanov.  As a member of the InnoCentive Client Services team, I have a number of responsibilities.  One of them is to review solutions that you, our Solvers, submit to posted Challenges.  (I even hope that from time to time, I can help you making them better).

I'm sure that those of you who submit proposals regularly know me by name after receiving my messages in your project rooms.  And the chances are that at a certain point, you received the following message from me:

"Dear Solver,

Thank you for your submission.

I strongly feel that you could make your proposal even more attractive by adding a special section to it that would address -- ideally, point by point -- all (number) specific Solution Requirements.

I look forward to your updated submission.
Best Regards,

Eugene Ivanov, PhD"

Here, I'd like to explain what I mean when sending this message, and how a few simple edits will make your submission even stronger.

Two types of InnoCentive Challenges, Theoretical and Reduction-to-Practice, almost always include so-called Solution Requirements, usually listed at the end of the detailed description of the challenge.  Their number can vary, but it usually ranges from 5 to 10, and, most often, they are presented in the order of importance: the most important are at the top of the list.

By posing these specific, usually quite technical in nature, requirements, the Seeker establishes a bar that every successful solution to the Challenge should overcome to be considered for an award, and he or she will use these requirements to grade the quality of individual submissions.

I find it very helpful when Solvers conclude their proposals with a special section where they repeat every individual requirement - one by one -- followed by a short summary of how the solution addresses this point.  (Please, note that I use the word "addresses" rather than "meets" on purpose: not every successful solution can "meet" all the requirements.  But you should at least show how close your solution comes to an "ideal.")

I know that some Solvers consider my requests excessive.  "Why should I spend my time on stating the obvious?" they argue.  "The Seeker will read my proposal and immediately see how great it is."

Well, true.  But step into the Seeker's shoes.  Quite often, the Seeker has to read and evaluate literally dozens of proposals, some of which are so novel and out-of-the-box that the Seeker struggles to even understand them.  Any help will be appreciated, and no help will be appreciated more than you telling the Seeker how your solution meets/addresses his or her unique Solution Requirements.

Consider also that by addressing specific Solution Requirements at the end of your proposal you execute a quality control of your own work.  Who knows, you may suddenly realize that there is one more attractive feature in your solution that you've simply forgotten to mention in your submission.

So, here is my advice.  Next time you write your proposal, don't stop after completion of its main part.  Do your quality control here.  Requirement #1.  Check.  Requirement #2. Check.  Requirement #3.  Check.  And so on, until it's time to hit the "submit" button.

If this is "my" Challenge, I will respond with a message that will likely start like this:

"Dear Solver,

Thank you for your submission.  It'll be my pleasure to forward it to our client for review..."

Good luck and I'll see you in your project room.

Topics: Challenges

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