Motivated by More than Money: Why Solvers Solve

Posted by Michael Franklin on Oct 24, 2016 8:44:07 AM

As open innovation has developed over the past two decades, numerous academic studies, newspaper articles and blog posts have covered the motivating factors for sponsors of crowdsourcing programmes: innovate faster, connect with new experts, access diverse minds and elicit ground-breaking solutions. However, significantly fewer words have been devoted to the arguably more important side of the equation; the motivating factors for Solvers. Why do people enter Challenges? Commit their time towards tackling difficult problems for organisations? Send solutions across the internet when they can see they’re competing against many other similarly talented individuals?  

Perhaps it’s all too obvious. Those that enter Challenges must be motivated by the prize money. It can be seen as a form of employment or a business transaction – I’ll provide technology X, and you’ll pay me $Y.

However, I would argue that this undersells the motivation for many Solvers. Yes money is a major factor, but a myriad of other reasons come into the decision to not only begin looking at a Challenge, but then dedicate the time, energy, resources and expertise towards providing a solution.

The InnoCentive Challenge model breaks down large problems into "bite-size" issues whereby one individual or a small team can accomplish the task in a few weeks or months. This obviously not only lowers the monetary benefit on offer, but equally important, it also means there are a greater number of Challenges available to choose from. Selection of one Challenge over another could be based on alignment with expertise, or a Solver believes they already know of a solution, or they have a transferable technology, or it could be that they have an initial idea and the prize money offered gives enough incentive to do further research to refine and improve.

A growing number of InnoCentive Challenges are being posted publically with the Seeker displaying who they are and actively stating that this is an important problem they want the worldwide community to help solve. This knowledge of who the Seeker is, takes the initial thought of “I’m tackling something that matters to someone”, to “I’m also providing a solution that organisation X could then use to develop the next cancer drug or assist astronauts in space”. This motivation can be multiplied by Seekers stating they are also open for post-Challenge collaborations to take the idea further. A Challenge can be the starting point of a long-lasting relationship.

Closely linked to this element of a public Seeker is if a Challenge tackles a ‘Social Good’. Working on a solution to tackle child morbidity, environmental degradation, illiteracy or others may make a Challenge stand out for the crowd and the knowledge of a purposeful solution result in higher interest.

The final key factors that motivate Solvers are related to the broader Solver network: knowing that you’re competing against many other InnoCentive Solvers, all of whom are well educated and creative individuals; having your solution chosen as the winner above of all others; gaining recognition from your peers; having your profile featured on the website. We are social animals, and as much as internal motivating factors can drive action, external stimuli have an equally important effect.

There is no escaping the fact that money is an important motivation for Solvers – we actively promote the prize fund within the Challenge and I doubt we’d see much, if any, engagement without these sums being offered. However the picture is far more complex and diverse than just one of economics; from peer recognition to social innovations, Solvers selectively use their limited time and resources to tackle those problems that matter to them.

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Topics: Solvers

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