InnoCentive Oil Spill Challenge - BP's Response

June 23, 2010 24 Comment in Challenges by Dwayne Spradlin

dwayne_spradlin_blogHello everyone.

I wanted to give you all an update related to our efforts to assist BP with the Oil Spill situation in the Gulf of Mexico.

As you may recall, the most recent update was a contact and expression of interest from BP that was orchestrated by a combination of outreach from the White House, Anthea Stratigos at Outsell, our partner Nature, and general media exposure.  After weeks of no response from BP, this was indeed a major breakthrough and we thank everyone that made that possible.

Specifically, BP officials contacted InnoCentive on June 5th with a positive tone and apparent eagerness to work together.  Their initial positioning was quite surprising, stating that there was no real opportunity to assist with the oil leak itself, “ …that the next 3 main projects are already in engineering and build for delivery in mid and late June.  It is unlikely that there is space for delivery of further innovations in that arena before the relief well is completed in August.”  After two months of attempting to stop the leak, they made clear that outside solutions will not have a role in stopping or slowing the leak.

That said, they also indicated that two areas that they termed “real time problems” existed that would be vital to the clean up phase: remote sensing of oil and better skimming technology.  After discussions on the morning of Sunday, June 6th, our teams started working immediately as a top priority with BP in order to define very specific challenges to drive solutions to these problems out to our network and the rest of the world.  At the same time, we began indicating in the press that BP was responding to the need to engage outside resources in their process.  Later that week, we expected approval to post these challenges on our website.  Approval did not come and BP failed to return calls for several days.  When our contacts did respond, they indicated that were sent home for much needed R&R, but were now back and ready to engage.  Not deterred, we checked in with them nearly every day over the subsequent week or so until June 19th when they wrote us that they would not be proceeding.

Why wouldn’t they proceed?  Particularly when these ‘real time problems” were identified by their own teams as priorities?  They said that “… the agreements BP would have to enter into with Innocentive are too complex and burdensome to add to already overstretched workdays.”  These agreements are simple, allow us to use BP’s name without InnoCentive taking on liability, and set the price of engagement at $0.  Overstretched workdays?  Really?

My faith in BP was already stretched, now it is gone.  The teams at BP lack an urgency to involve the outside world.  They appear to actually believe they have this crisis well in hand while putting forth that stoic, concerned face we’re all now use to seeing - working around the clock and doing everything humanly possible .  BP is not the victim here.  A catastrophic leadership failure, driven by a closed and arrogant culture.  This does not bode well for the Gulf.

You, we and many others have attempted to help in this crisis situation.  It is clear BP cannot be trusted to make the right decisions here, further intervention will be necessary.  We are currently assessing the next steps on our end, but I wanted to make sure you all had the most recent updates.

Your assistance has been invaluable, but we are not yet done.  We may need to tap you for further ideas if we are all to make a difference here.  Thank you for your help to date and in advance.  We are not going quietly into the night on this one, not with what’s at stake in the Gulf.

Best regards,


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Bruce Hannon's Complexity Digest # 8 Gulf Oil Spill: Engineering Approaches


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