Open Innovation = Millionaire Lifelines?

Posted by Steve Shapiro on Jul 31, 2009 12:59:42 PM

During dinner not long ago, I compared crowdsourcing to the lifelines on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"

Imagine you are sitting in the hot seat.  The show's host asks you a question.  You are nervous and can't think straight.  You think you know the answer to the question, but $64,000 is on the line.  You are no longer that sure of yourself.  You have all of your lifelines.  What do you do?

You could of course answer the question on your own.  You answered the previous 10 questions correctly doing it this way.  But the stakes are higher now.  It's time to get some help.

You could Phone-A-Friend.  Based on the few times I watched the show (admittedly the last time I watched WWTBAM was back in 2001 when was living in England), this option rarely proved reliable.  Of course, if your friend has access to Google and can search quickly, then it is probably the best option.

You could go for the 50/50.  Here, two incorrect answers are eliminated, leaving you only two choices.  This is a great option.  Unfortunately, according to the all-knowing Wikipedia, "the answers eliminated were not random but were pre-selected as the ones the contestant was least likely to pick."  Well, that makes things a bit harder.

Finally, you could Ask the Audience.  The audience seemed to be nearly always right.  According to Wikipedia, "This is a popular lifeline, known for its near-perfect accuracy. (Regis) Philbin once said that the audience's answer is statistically 95% of the time correct."  However, my research shows that this accuracy level is only for the first 10 questions.  For the more difficult questions, I believe that they are often clueless.  Now, if only those who really knew the answer responded, then I suspect the audience could be even more accurate.

In the current version of the show, there are other lifelines, like "Ask the Expert."  You can guess what this is.

Now, imagine you are in the hot seat at work.  You are working on a pressing challenge.   You think you know the answer.  Or maybe you haven't a clue how to solve it.  Regardless, how do you want to bet the company's money?

You could Phone-A-Friend.  That is, you could ask the people around your desk at work.  This would most likely improve your chances.  Sadly, as great as Google is, it will not provide the answers to your more difficult challenges.

You could do the equivalent of "asking the audience" by asking customers for feedback.  MyStarbucksIdea simulates this concept.  Unfortunately, as with the WWTBAM audience, you get a lot of "noise" in the responses because everyone wants to be heard.

You could Ask the Expert.  To do this you might partner with a University or bring on a consultant.    Or maybe you outsource the challenge to a 3rd party to take responsibility for solving the problem.

Or maybe there is a solution that combines several of these together.  Call it the "Ask the Audience of Experts."  This might involve posing a challenge to a group of highly skilled experts; people who have a higher likelihood of solving your problems.  You get the viewpoint of many people (much better than Phone-A-Friend), but you also eliminate the "noise" associated with a generic audience.  This gives you the added bonus of having a "50/50" solution set because you end up with fewer "wrong" answers.

As far as I know, no one has ever won the million dollars on the TV show without using their lifelines.  Why should your organization try to win its millions without using the best lifelines available to you?

Topics: Innovation Insights

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