Seeker Spotlight: Mom’s Medical Mystery (Part 2)

Posted by Steve Bonadio on Nov 29, 2012 3:07:13 PM

Back in August 2012, we posted a very unique Brainstorm Challenge to crowdsource a diagnosis for a medical mystery. We were overwhelmed with the Solver response, with 1,565 Solvers engaging in the Challenge. Fast forward to November, and Mom’s Medical Mystery returns, this time seeking design plans for analyzing the responses of the first Challenge. At the midpoint of this second Challenge (which closes on December 13, 2012), we spoke with Simon Turkalj to hear more about how the Mom’s Medical Mystery sequel is progressing.

Hello Mr. Turkalj – Thanks for joining us again. What were some of the most important ideas that you took away from the first Challenge you launched?

There is an old saying in medicine, “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.” It’s a reference to thinking about probabilities when you encounter evidence – horses are more common, and therefore more likely, than zebras. 

This case has stumped specialists for more than two years now, so we did need to consider the unusual/unlikely causes, but without abandoning critical thinking. In this context, we had to learn how to balance our responses. We wanted to encourage out-of-the box thinking from the Solver community. We also wanted to involve our team of specialists in providing good technical responses to present a point/counterpoint (checking off the pros and cons of each theory) to deepen the Solver dialogue. 

The depth and breadth of the responses was encouraging. While we didn’t reach our goal of a single definitive diagnosis, our first Challenge generated an incredibly rich dataset of detailed and interesting commentary. It also inspired our second “sequel” Challenge. We knew that the next step was to crunch the data we currently have, before heading off in new directions.

What have been some of the most encouraging approaches discussed in this second Challenge so far?

Our sequel Challenge was framed in very specific terms: create a methodology for the next phase of our project with a detailed set of logically connected steps for the analysis of the data, clear descriptions of all inputs and the expected outcomes for each step, and examples or proof-of-concepts of the execution where feasible. 

With that in mind, we have found the most encouraging approaches to be the ones that fit those parameters. In particular, the postings that have presented analysis plans presented in terms of numbered tasks or phases. 

At the midway point of your second Challenge, how are you hoping Solvers can move their ideas forwards in the final few weeks? 

We are always looking for ways to advance the discussion, to distill and refine the ideas that have been presented. 

In terms of the current project, Solvers could move their ideas forward by focusing on that last “proof of concept” criteria. Grab some data and try structuring, visualizing, analyzing, and/or transforming it according to one (or more) of the steps in the proposed solution. We call this the “kick the tires” phase, to demonstrate that the design is feasible and to showcase its potential

Are there particular areas that you feel could benefit from more discussion in this Challenge?

While we appreciate posts that ask for new data and/or propose new diagnoses (the focus of the previous Challenge), we would like to see more discussion focused on the framework of the current Challenge – we want all eyes focused on the existing dataset. 

We very deliberately set no limits on the methodology, and we hope this second Challenge will bring unique and innovative approaches that go beyond what we have considered.

Your direct engagement in these Challenges has been exceptional – what lessons do you think other Seekers can take from actively engaging with our Solver community?

Our team feels that being engaged is one of the keys to the InnoCentive Challenge process. It’s a community dialogue. Our first official Facebook post for this medical crowdsourcing project stated: “My hope here is that the online ‘We’ comes together and, for a fleeting moment, unleashes its power right here.” The Solver community is an unusually talented online ‘We,’ one with the global diversity, intellectual rigor, and perseverance to nail an encompassing solution. The trick for other Seekers is to be engaged in a way that deepens, rather than inhibits, Solvers’ responses.

Topics: Seekers

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