Changing your perspective – three ways to adapt your thinking and improve your Open Innovation outcomes

Agreeing to undertake an Open Innovation project and identifying suitable Challenges are only the first steps in the Crowdsourcing process. Accompanying this action must be a definitive move towards broadening perspectives at both the company and personal level. What follows are three of the main mental barriers we frequently encounter with clients and suggested means through which to overcome them – in doing so, helping you optimise the results from Open Innovation.


1. Removing the “Not Invented Here” Paradigm

The first organisational perspective that can become a barrier to Open Innovation is the premise of “Not Invented Here”. Your company considers itself an industry leader; employing the smartest people and using considerable funds to provide them with the cutting edge technology and equipment needed to deliver the innovations for the twenty-first century. How can it be that someone else, somewhere else, perhaps with inferior resources, could possibly solve your problem?

Not Invented here is also a powerful factor on the personal level. If organisationally you consider this to be worrisome, then the response from the scientific lead may be an even stronger revulsion to the Crowdsourcing model. To overcome both, companies need to overtly acknowledge this paradigm. Instead of seeing it as a weakness or failure, leadership should reward those employees who recognise when they may not be able to solve a problem optimally themselves, or feel an expedited process may be possible by accessing the crowd. Scientific owners of the problem should consider Crowdsourcing as an auxiliary method that can help their work in the longer run: while actionable, solutions are rarely finished products that can be plug-and-played and instead their guidance and expertise will be required to utilise the solutions that were garnered.

Open Innovation is not a panacea. Innovation is not a zero-sum game whereby Crowdsourcing will eradicate internal R&D. It is an innovation tool that complements other processes and can be the catalyst for further partnerships, research or longer-term results. Companies that alter their perspective on where solutions come from, and are willing to open their problems to the crowd are taking the initial steps in this process.


2. Forgetting any western-elite bias

The acceptance of solutions coming from outside your organisation is the first step, however stride by stride must be the removal of any western-elite bias in your thinking. I’m often astounded by the premise that the only Solvers that matter are those from the triad of North America, Western Europe & Japan; that only well-endowed researchers from the OECD could possibly understand the Challenge premise, let alone present a solution.

As noted in a previous blog post, our Solver Network is truly global with ever increasing representation from around the world. But more importantly, the winning solutions clients are receiving are coming from all four corners. Institutionalised thinking from those who have been taught the same way, researched the same theses, and undertaken the same experiments does not stop at the office door. The phenomenon is transferable to academia and others. The truly innovative thoughts come from the unknowns – those working from a blank canvas that do not hold the prejudices and/or subjectivity. These could be from an unforeseen industry, or an unexpected country.

The InnoCentive methodology provides anonymity in the solutions to prevent a knowledge of origin or Solver expertise, but the promotion of the Challenge and initial corporate thought process needs to mirror this.  A bias on who could solve your Challenge defeats the purpose of Crowdsourcing and could constrict the positioning of a Challenge; overcoming this predisposition is key.


3. Acknowledging your initial problem statement may not reflect what you truly need

Challenges are a point for many opinions to converge, viewpoints to be offered, and solutions be proposed. The strength of the crowd comes not from its narrow applicability to a certain scientific field, but from the transferable knowledge that 375,000 people can bring to the problem. This nexus of creativity is what a Challenge harnesses and thus the writing of the problem statement needs to reflect this.

Our specially trained PhD-educated Principals have years of experience in developing Challenges and have an acute understanding of what is the core information that’s needed for a successful solution, and discarding that which will constrain the thinking of Solvers. This may result in a vastly different Challenge than when you first started the process, but decluttering requirements & criteria, demystifying industry specific terminology, and reducing the Challenge to the absolute necessities will help achieve more impactful solutions. Our workshop training spends extensive time thinking about how problems should be positioned and what is truly required. It’s a journey that our Principals will guide you on, but from 15 years of developing our Challenge Driven Innovation methodology, and with over 2000 Challenges run, we’re confident that this new way of thinking and positioning problems will deliver the truly meaningful outcomes.


Open Innovation offers unique opportunities, but it does not come without its own necessities and prerequisites. These are not only technical and scientific, but in fact the greatest barrier to successful programmes may often be a mental framework – altering this state and changing perspectives will allow objective decisions and will facilitate the greatest benefits being achieved.

If you’re interested in understanding more about our training, methodology or would like to crowdsource solutions yourself, please get in contact here.

Globalised Solver Community

A Globalised Solver Network to meet the Challenges of the 21st Century

A leitmotif of the past 30 years, globalisation has driven a significant compression of time and distance – a shrinking of the world. No longer are companies siloed off in territorial compartments, only interacting with those who share the same nationality. There is a global talent pool and organisations are realising that accessing this group is key to accelerating innovation and discovering diverse viewpoints that otherwise would not have been found. InnoCentive and crowdsourcing are built upon this belief – that however talented an internal company team is, there exists a ‘long-tail’ of global innovators who can provide truly great solutions.

But does the reality live up to these ideals? Does a Challenge posted on the InnoCentive website really receive a global response? And even if solutions come from every corner of the globe, do they offer breakthrough ideas? In reality is it just the well-endowed research labs, universities and private inventors of the West that actually win Challenges?

Firstly to look at where Solvers come from; being based in Boston, MA there is a long history of Solvers originating from North America and other countries of the Anglosphere. However, when comparing the graphs below, a distinct change in the geographical location of Solvers has developed over time. Asia in particular has seen expansive growth – predominantly driven by the strength of China and the subcontinent. This is a trend we expect to continue: with greater levels of internet connectivity, English ability, academic standards, and scientific spending, as a knock on effect these countries should continue to see growing numbers registering as InnoCentive Solvers.

Solver geog 2001


Solver geog 2016

So InnoCentive has more Solvers coming from diverse countries around the world, but do they provide great solutions and actually solve Challenges?

Looking at the data – the answer is yes. In 2005, for all Challenges run, winning Solvers originated from only 11 countries. By 2010 this number was 36 countries. Last year it was 47. In the first three months of 2016, we’ve already awarded Solvers from a wider range countries than we did in the entire of 2007. Grouping winners based on continents, 2014 saw more winners, and more money, won by Solvers in Asia than those in Europe. Further analysis of the dollar amounts awarded shows that 2013 was the first year that the USA didn’t lead the overall charts – innovative researchers in Germany led their country to first place by more than $200,000. These statistics all go to show that during the 15 years that InnoCentive has been running Challenges, there has been a huge growth and diversification of our now 375,000 strong Solver Network. Winning Solvers are coming from all six continents, speak over 30 languages, and bring decades of experience with them to provide innovation solutions to Challenges.

So what does this all mean?

If you’re a Seeker, you can be guaranteed that a diverse group of individuals and companies from all corners of the globe will be viewing, entering and potentially winning your Challenge. This globalised network gives you unprecedented access to opinions and expertise from around the world – it is often from those industries and locations that you would never have expected, that the most insightful submissions arise. InnoCentive acts as the mediator and facilitator in this process; protecting intellectual property, ensuring anonymity if needed, and then providing guidance for objective, criteria-based evaluation.

If you’re a Solver, wherever you are from, whatever your background, if you have the best solution to a Challenge, you can win. Open innovation methodologies were not developed to glamourise request for proposals that only those who have previously worked with the company, government agency or charity then have a chance of winning. Crowdsourcing is driving the democratisation of innovation – a meritocratic exercise that champions results rather than connections.

The trends mentioned above are only going to get ever more pronounced as the world continues to globalise. If you want to become part of this movement; either in providing solutions, or positioning your innovation issues to the crowd, please get in touch through the appropriate link below:

The Power of Showcase Challenges

The Power of Showcase Challenges – Lion’s Den and Beyond

The Power of Showcase ChallengesAs comes spring, so comes a successful conclusion to another year of Lion’s Den Challenge – the flagship start-up competition for staff and students at King’s College London, which has been run in partnership with InnoCentive over the past five years. Following a six-month programme of workshops, networking events and mentorship opportunities to help students validate and develop their business ideas, winners were announced at the awards ceremony in March, which was held in the grand setting of the House of Lords in London, UK.

This type of Challenge is less about finding point solutions to innovation problems. Instead it is about sourcing and showcasing great ideas and organizations – bringing them to you rather than the other way around.

InnoCentive has a long history of running these “Showcase Challenges”. The Global Security Challenge, an annual Showcase Challenge with a different theme each year, was run over six year period by a predecessor of InnoCentive. Sponsored by US government departments and large international corporations, these groups were more accustomed to dealing with large businesses as tech providers. However the Global Security Challenge gave them an opportunity to connect with leading startups and SMEs from around the world: instead of the sponsors needing to take on extensive and expensive tech scouting programmes, a Showcase Challenge allowed the talent to come to them, and then through the competition structure, drive ever-increasing attainment levels. More recent examples InnoCentive have run include the UK Trade & Investment Sirius Programme, MasterCard Foundation “Clients at the Centre” Prize & Lumina Foundation’s Social Innovation Prize for Postsecondary Learning.

Showcase Challenges have diversified and developed over the years, but the central tenant remains the same – using crowdsourcing competitions to attract start-ups, SMEs or other NGOs to you, rather than having to find them yourself. However, by tailoring InnoCentive’s Challenge Driven Methodology, Showcase Challenges move beyond just an open call for business proposals. The use of robust application requirements, judging criteria and evaluation procedures gives a structure that allows for a more transparent, fair and objective competition. Showcase Challenges are not grant applications or open calls for business plans, but instead use the crowdsourcing principles that work so successfully in expediting technical innovations, to instead drive higher engagement, attainment and relevancy in business competitions.

The other key aspect of Showcase Challenges that gives real benefit to clients, is the publicity that comes from not only running the Challenge, but then also having associated marketing activities and culminating in a live pitching event. Awareness is firstly raised by highlighting the issue that the Challenge is tackling – whether that be student entrepreneurs or businesses providing micro-finance in the developing world. Once traction is gained, the contest can then be leveraged to attract other industry leaders, government representatives, media and others. These actions all help raise the profile of the competition, the issue, the applicants, and the sponsor. Over the six years that the Global Security Challenge ran, it became internationally recognised as an industry-leading event and programme – using high-profile Challenges can be an innovative way to position a company as a pioneer within a sector.

For those organisations that wish to move beyond purely technical solutions and instead find innovative ways to connect with start-ups, SMEs and businesses that otherwise may have never have come onto their radar, Showcase Challenges are one way this can be achieved to great effect. If you’d like to find out more about running your own Showcase Challenge, please feel free to get in contact here: You can read more about Lion’s Den Challenge and this year’s winners here.

The Diverse Uses of Crowdsourcing Competitions

The Diverse Uses of Crowdsourcing Competitions

The Diverse Uses of Crowdsourcing CompetitionsComing out of Eli Lily, it’s easy to assume that the majority of InnoCentive Challenges would be scientific in nature: searching for new molecules, device designs, drug assays or chemical structures. But as the open innovation marketplace has matured, and particularly in the past few years, there’s been a stark diversification of the types of clients and Challenge topics that have been posted with us. As crowdsourcing becomes ever more universal, more and more industries are understanding it’s capability to tackle their specific issues.

Returning back to the closing decades of the twentieth century, innovation was largely a modular, siloed process. Have an R&D problem, let’s give it to this lab to work on. Need to explore new potential markets, bring in a management consultant. Want to design a publicity program, let’s have the communications team control that. Specialisation in these fields was of course important to deliver functional results, but by closing off projects to all but one domain, this arguably led to an institutionalisation that prevented the truly ground-breaking ideas from being discovered.

This was where crowdsourcing came in.

First tackling the R&D field, crowdsourcing gave a method for scientific problems to be positioned so experts from around the world could tackle them, present their novel idea and allow companies to innovate cheaper, faster and develop new partnerships at the same time. InnoCentive saw great success with the Oil Spill Recovery Challenge, Prize4Life Biomarker Challenge, and many others, while other providers like NineSigma or XPrize found similar success in these classical scientific fields.

But in the past few years there has been a noticeable shift in the subject matter of Challenges run. No longer are clients purely seeking to crowdsource solutions to technical problems, but instead are looking for; public policy papers, market analysis and new product proposals, promotional videos, marketing campaigns, predictive consumer algorithms and many more.  It’s testament to the flexibility of our open innovation management platform and foundational Challenge Driven Innovation’ methodology, that gives the formal structure and process that allows breakthrough results to be achieved. With over 2000 Challenges launched, we’ve built a wealth of experience and expertise in how this methodology can be translated to new problem areas and industries.

In looking at the second side of the equation – the Solvers who then provide solutions to Challenges, they too have developed as a group over time. If we think about ourselves as individuals, we are not limited to one topical area where outside of this we would be unable to provide anything of value. In fact where the greatest worth can be found through crowdsourcing is often at the crossover point where we transfer our expertise into a new field to provide a truly ground-breaking solution. It could be a similar technique that has worked in a previous field, or some information picked up through a past collaboration. Further, along with appreciating how InnoCentive’s 375,000 Solvers all present various fields of expertise, as more diverse Challenges are being posted so too are diverse working groups joining our platform: dedicated computer scientists, graphical designers and others all becoming active members of our network. As all these aspects come together, it’s at this nexus where the greatest output can be found and benefits of crowdsourcing solutions realised.

Starting from a narrowly scientific field, crowdsourcing has expanded over the past two decades to cover nearly every industry. As this has occurred, the crowd has diversified and with this, multiplied in the value they can provide. As open innovation becomes an embedded tool of twenty-first century business practices, this process will continue to happen with more and more industries seeing the value in opening up their innovation needs to the combined smarts of the online world.

If you’d like to find out more about running your own crowdsourcing competition, please feel free to get in contact here: 


Social Ventures’ Role in Reaching Goal 2025: Lumina Foundation’s Social Innovation Prize for Postsecondary Learning

Challenges are a way for companies and individuals to submit their ideas regarding solutions to issues that organizations are working to solve. Some of the country’s most innovative organizations use crowdsource innovation challenges to connect with the world’s most talented thinkers who then compete to provide solutions in return for a monetary prize and the networking opportunities that being announced as a winner creates.  This, in turn, helps Lumina in our work. We have only 9 years to reach Goal 2025; the aim of increasing the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60% by 2025.


Lumina Foundation’s Social Innovation Prize for Postsecondary Learning seeks to highlight social ventures that are either already impacting postsecondary education in the US, or believe they could apply their model to increase attainment in the higher education sector. The organizations we’re interested in may be of any type, as long as they can show how their practices can be used to scale and sustain efforts to help advance Goal 2025.


Beyond the $50,000 award, the Lumina’s Social Innovation Prize for Postsecondary Learning offers a unique opportunity for visibility and networking with industry leaders at the ASU GSV Summit, a must-attend annual conference that brings together thought leaders who want to multiply the power of a great idea. Each finalist will pitch to a panel of industry experts that will include myself, Anne Dwane (GSV Ventures), Dan Osusky (B Lab), and Nasir Qadree (Village Capital). At the end of the ASU GSV session part of the prize will be awarded by the panel, the rest according to a live online crowd vote that will run during the session.  In addition, finalists will have the opportunity to plug into the many successful and long-lasting partnerships within the nonprofit and investment sectors that Lumina Foundation has built. It is Lumina’s hope that this Social Innovation Prize can be used as a potential first step in developing similar relationships with leading social ventures.


The deadline for submitting your social innovation concept is March 20th, 2016.


Please take a moment to look through the Challenge and consider if any of your ideas might be viable for submission. In addition, please pass on news of the Challenge launch to your networks. Help us find folks working hard to find solutions that align with Lumina’s goal to build an equitable, accessible, responsive and accountable higher education system.
Thanks and see you in San Diego!

Kiko Suarez

Vice President of Communications & Innovation

Lumina Foundation

Innovations of Note: Looking Toward 2016 With Promise

With CES 2016 now over, imaginative innovators are looking to new technology and ideas for others to incorporate in their innovation platform. The world population continues to get increasingly tech savvy. This is a dream for innovators, but it can also lead to conundrums. How are the people of today supposed to stay connected without feeling burdened? That seems to be the biggest question opening the door to the greatest current advances.

Smart, Yet Simple

From single-port television connections to jewelry and earbud replacements that remove the need for a smartphone to be tethered to a person at all times, a large portion of the innovations showcased at CES seem to be geared toward connectivity on the wearer’s terms. These innovations allow users to pare down their need for cables and accessories and enter into the future with the ability to communicate at all times without having to stare at a screen.

Airborne Tech

Drones also have an increasing pull on both the common and advanced markets. Longer Wi-Fi range and fixed-wing capabilities are the way innovators are designing these devices for easier everyday use with better control for any innovation platform.

Medical Advancements

In 2015, innovators tackled the medical field with ideas that are changing the way patients receive and use medical information. Remote monitoring for everything from sleep habits to heart rhythm allows doctors to see more detailed trends in patients.

Additionally, prosthetic naturalness has been and continues to be an area of development ripe for innovation. Prosthetic design has seen an increase in mimicry and functionality, and both patients and doctors are growing excited about the changes.

What problem solvers and advancements will be looked back on at the end of 2016 as major breakthroughs in today’s world and become standard in innovation platform practices? InnoCentive is ready to meet this new year with novel ideas!

An innovation in clearing space junk developed in China

An innovation in clearing space junk developed in China

An innovation in clearing space junk developed in ChinaThe problem of space junk has proven increasingly vexing to both national space agencies, such as NASA, and commercial space companies. Millions of pieces of debris, ranging from nuts and bolts to spent satellites, orbit the Earth at thousands of miles an hour, providing a navigational hazard to both crewed spacecraft and active satellites. Periodically the International Space Station is obliged to maneuver to avoid a collision with a piece of space junk that might otherwise severely damage it.

According to MIT Technology Review, a group of engineers at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China have proposed an innovative solution to the problem. The idea is to launch a satellite with a source of power, solar or nuclear and have it swallow space junk, grind it up into powder, superheat it into plasma, and use the plasma to maneuver about. In theory, such a vehicle could move about in orbit around the Earth indefinitely, swallowing up debris and using it as fuel.

To be sure, the debris-eating spacecraft would only work with space junk less than 10 centimeters in diameter. Larger pieces of space junk would be heated by a laser to cause them to crash into the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up. Also, some have expressed concern about using nuclear power in low Earth orbit.

Still, the Chinese engineers may be onto something. Previous ideas of dealing with space junk were limited by the problem of fuel. Once the fuel runs out for a space junk collection vehicle, it becomes space junk itself. But the use of space junk as fuel seems to be an elegant solution to that problem.

ISPIM Grand Prize 2016

ISPIM Grand Prize 2016 for Excellence in Innovation Management

ISPIM Grand Prize 2016ISPIM, the International Society for Professional Innovation Management, champions the innovation activities of commercial entities and is back with its ISPIM Grand Prize to recognize the work currently going on.

Great products are the result of excellent innovation management, and so the Prize seeks to recognize the outstanding work that innovation professionals do to deliver great innovation to the market. It is looking for cases that significantly advance the practice of innovation management in proven application, not theory. The advance should be in how innovation is managed, they are not seeking proposals that describe the actual end output, the what.

Examples of submissions to the Prize could include;

  • launching an Open Innovation program to accelerate new ideas and public engagement
  • energizing the whole company to contribute to technology radar
  • introducing a common ethos and approach to innovation in a large, diverse and decentralized organization
  • making innovation more efficient through new processes

The competition will be open to all commercial enterprises (companies or not-for-profits) and the deadline is 8th April 2015. A panel of judges will first assess the entries, before 3 finalists will be invited to present at the ISPIM conference in Porto, Portugal on 19th June 2015.

For more information and details on how to enter, please go to



ISPIM – International Society for Professional Innovation Management – is a network of researchers, industrialists, consultants and public bodies who share an interest in innovation management. Founded in 1983 by Professor Knut Holt in Norway, ISPIM is the oldest, largest and most active innovation association in Europe, rapidly expanding in the Americas and Asia.

ISPIM produces scientific and educational material and events to help people understand and share thinking and experiences on how individuals, organisations and society can be better organized to create and distribute new products, services and processes to make the world a better place.


Top Idea Generation Ideas: Three Tips

Top Idea Generation Ideas: Three Tips

Top Idea Generation Ideas: Three Tips

Idea generation is at the core of your company’s success, so you need to develop strategies for making it happen.

Your idea generation is at the core of your company’s success and your individual success. Here are three ideas that you may not have thought would help generate ideas, but Fortune 500 companies regularly use these techniques.

Take Rest Consistently.

Top companies from Google to Facebook give their employees the ability to stretch at their desk at least once every 20 minutes. These companies are consistently among the most productive companies in the world year after year.

The body is not made to provide stable productivity for eight hours in a row. Do not fool yourself into thinking that you have to perform this way. Move with the natural flow of your body and rest when you need to rest!

Crowdsource Your Idea Generation.

One of the cheapest ways to get your next million dollar idea is to let others build on it through the proper crowdsourcing platform. Create a challenge for an up-and-comer to cut his teeth on. Make sure the best ideas receive recognition and status, either through a prize or through public acknowledgment. The volume of ideas that you will receive may surprise you.

Use the Minimum Value Proposition.

Many people fear moving ideas forward because of the R&D time it takes to test an idea. Lean start-up philosophy tells us to use the minimum value proposition to test ideas. In short, your beta test is the bare minimum that you can present in a functional way to an audience. Your audience then gives you the critiques so that you can move forward with more confidence.

Enel Green Power: Let's Innovate. The Challenge Begins.

Five Challenges to drive innovations in Renewable Energy


As a subsidiary of one of the world’s largest energy providers, Enel Green Power concentrates all their efforts on the production of renewable energy through a variety of sources. With a presence in four continents and 735 active power plants globally, it is truly a transnational corporation leading the way in the production of geothermal energy, hydropower, solar energy, biomass, and wind power.

As part of their continual strive to improve renewable energy production and further diversify the energy mix, they have launched five Challenges through their own online platform. These Challenges are looking for early-stage innovative technological solutions and proposals that centre around five key issues that are highlighted below.

  1. Use of drones / satellites in renewable plants

Enel Green Power is looking for effective and concrete proposals of drones and satellites use for power plants during the engineering and construction phase, and operation and maintenance activities. The challenge is to propose an effective way to use drones in renewable power plant management to improve safety, decrease maintenance costs, number of faults etc.

  1. Automatic Assembly of photovoltaic plants

Enel Green Power is looking for automatic assembly systems but it seems that there are very few solutions available on the market, proposed by literature, applied by other electrical utilities worldwide, or in early stages of development. The challenge is to design a system able to assemble solar power plants automatically.

  1. Photovoltaic Panels Cleaning

Periodical cleaning of solar panels is very important in order to produce and deliver the maximum amount of energy to the grid. Enel Green Power is looking for some solutions which include: Water free solutions (robots installed at string level), and Cleaning with tracks that use water and brushes (necessary water and vehicles fuel consumption). The challenge is to find an effective and inexpensive solution to clean solar modules.

  1. Wind Turbines generators blades anti-icing and de-icing systems

Wind turbine performance can be significantly reduced when the surface integrity of the turbine blades is compromised. The challenge is to find out an effective and inexpensive way to avoid ice formation that can be feasibly applied on new blades or on blades already installed.

  1. New geophysical prospecting techniques

In order to find out the right places of where to drill new wells, Enel Green Power performs geophysical surveys, with the aim to obtain, through the surface detection of some physical parameters of deep geological formations, indirect information useful for the reconstruction of the geothermal model. In this Challenge, Enel Green Power is looking for new geophysical prospecting techniques.