Caroline Pacl Foundations for International Communications Case Study 2: Open Source Innovation in InnoCentive.

com Introduction The online corporation and global leader of open innovation, and crowd sourcing R&D — — offers a platform for a variety of institutions, governments or non-profit organizations to find solutions to their organization’s problems through a diverse network of external problem solvers. InnoCentive (also referred to as IC in this paper) was created by Alph Bingham, the president of Eli Lilly and Company’s R&D department as a way for companies to find faster and higher-quality solutions to their problems outside of their traditional “local” pool of researchers. These organizations are called “Seekers” on the Site, and are the major source of revenue for InnoCentive—paying fees to formulate their “Challenges” with IC staff members and then post them on the website for “Solvers” to review and submit proposals. In order to fully maximize the range of R&D being submitted to Seekers, InnoCentive’s only requirement for a Solver to be eligible is that they are 18 years or older, and can commit to a legally contractual trade agreement in the United States. The most common contract that is created through InnoCentive is one for legal exchange of Intellectual Property rights from the Solver(s) in return for an agreed upon award by the Seeker. Seekers that may have traditionally paid a hefty salary for a one person or team consultant group to help resolve R&D problems, whether or not they find solutions— now can conduct research on a global level and will only have to pay for solutions Currently, InnoCentive connects organizations like Procter & Gamble to more than 200,000 Solvers from more than 200 countries. One rationale of Solvers to submit solutions on the InnoCentive platform is for their personal gratification in being challenged by a real world problem. For big-name Seekers like The Economist that placed four eRFP’s on IC, Solvers can gain enormous respect in the field and improve their reputation. On the other hand, Solvers are self-interested, so their engagement is also initiated by the prospect of winning the awards, which can range from hundreds to one million dollars. There are four categories of challenges are placed under: Ideation—brainstorming suggestions without IP transfer; Theoretical—description of solution with IP transfer or license for award; Reduction to Practice (RTP)—detailed description with physical evidence; and Electronic Requests for Proposal (eRFP)—Innovation plan in return for contract with Seeker. InnoCentive advises in most cases that Seekers and Solvers maintain a status of anonymity throughout the

Challenge process, until winning solutions have been chosen at which point parties can choose whether to divulge that information to each other. Problem: Can and should InnoCentive shift from a competitive to a collaborative website? In 2008, IC posted their own Ideation Challenge, in which they asked Solvers to submit proposals on how InnoCentive could better serve their Solvers’ needs by establishing a community and creating more opportunities for teamwork. InnoCentive had received a great deal of feedback from Solvers who hoped the company would make the website more of an interactive platform for them, whereby increasing their odds at proposing a winning solution. InnoCentive asked for their proposals and to address issues such as: exposing Solver identities; potential interoperability on Challenges, and how the website could specifically improve its functionality for them. Up to four Solvers would receive a prize for up to $5,000 for their unique proposals. Analysis The InnoCentive Ideation Challenge had winning solutions that included recommendations for a more personalized homepage for the Solver (i.e. “My IC”) that would make their time spent on the website more focused and catered to their own interests. It would also create an interactive area for Solvers to share links with others in the community that might be useful in solving Challenges. Among other things suggested to improve the website were Solver profile pages; instant messaging or email capabilities with other solvers; an invitation tool for Solvers to form specific project teams or general interest groups; specific topic focus-group-like forums; and a job-listing page for Seekers to post openings within their organization. Finally the solutions proposed various ways for InnoCentive to create collaboration features for Solvers that would improve the overall process of solving Challenges. This suggested that the new default type of Challenge be cooperative, and shift the current independent and competitive basis to the secondary solution form. Recommendations While collaboration is in many instances critical to developing solid solutions in an efficient way, it is not always a beneficial business method when it comes to R&D. Not only is it more difficult to manage the IP rights for a group versus an independent person, but collaboration also can hinder the span of creativity if approached in the wrong way. For example Stephen Shapiro, InnoCentive’s Leader in Open Innovation says that “If you start with collaboration, you end up with
"group think" very quicklyi.” He explains that the first idea brought to the table tends to influence the thinking of everyone else. This he explains, “narrows the set of ideas that are typically generated. Therefore, if you start with a competition, you get the broadest set of ideas possible.” However, when

you compare the use of collaboration on the InnoCentive@Work program that Seekers can use for their internal employees, collaboration usually works well. This is because the people in the workforce are all working toward a goal that they are cognizant of (and paid salaries), while Solvers on the InnoCentive website are not told who the Seekers are, nor how Seekers will use the solutions and contribute to society. This anonymity makes independent competition the best method for most projects on at InnoCentive. While Competition is the easiest way to get the most solutions from a diverse group of people, it is not to be said that InnoCentive should not support its Solver community more. On February 25, 2010, InnoCentive launched a discussion forum for Solvers to connect with one another, learn more about InnoCentive and exchange information about open innovation. Some Solvers have used this as a platform to suggest collaboration on a certain case and will leave their contact information, but not very many people respond to these threads because the forum is somewhat off the beaten path of the My IC page. One Solver, appropriately named typecynic responded to a post titled “Understanding the Problem” saying: “Good luck getting an answer for your question. Everything on here is geared for the
seeker and the solver is left in limbo regarding his or her work. Don't waste your time going into a lot of detail because if your solution doesn't fit what the seeker wants to hear, it will just be rejected with little or no explanation. And since you never get to see the winning or competing entries, you have no way to learn how to improve your next submittal.”

Another major issue that Solvers voiced was regarding the Project Rooms, which hold the more detailed descriptions of the Challenge, but Solvers must sign an agreement before entering. Every time a Solver does this, the Challenge is registered in My IC, whether or not they actually want to solve it, and furthermore raise the tally of Solvers “working” on the project sometimes into the hundreds. Solver Fredrenner says that a distinction is needed between those interested in
solving the Challenge, and those just taking a gander at the case specs. “Huge numbers in rooms strongly discourage me from putting any of my time into a Challenge even if it really interests me.”

Since the forum was created less than 40 posts have been made, signaling that this might not be the best way to achieve a Solver Community. A chatroom could work in that regard, where Solvers can give and take instant feedback regarding cases, set up teams for projects that allow for collaboration and overall establish a sense of belonging in the community. A chatroom would only work if everyone agreed before entering that anything shared inside is free game, and therefore be warned not to divulge too valuable of ideas without considering its audience. Finally, my last recommendation would be to also create unique Solver Profile Pages where

Solvers could then share information about themselves for others in the community to see. Their profiles would reveal their work/education background; expertise; interests; and Solution History/ level of seriousness about solving projects. David Ritter says he hopes that InnoCentive will become the facebook of innovation, where people come together from diverse backgrounds, but all for the same cause—to use their creativity to solve problems. If this is where InnoCentive hopes to be, they should listen to their Solvers and tend to their needs.


Shapiro, Stephen. “Is Collaboration or Competition Better for Innovation? Blogging Innovation 15, December 15, 2009 <>

Instructor Feedback
Course: Grade : Comments :
Foundations of International Communication F2010 SIS-340-002-2010F 96 out of 100 Accurately and succinctly illustrates the problems in a competitive endeavor trying to migrate to a more collaborative one.

Attached Files : N/A

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful

Master Your Semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master Your Semester with a Special Offer from Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.