Sunday, June 10, 2007

Wikinomics Ideagoras

There are many great perspective-shifting points in Wikinomics, a 2006 book by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams.

One of the most interesting ideas is how organizations (companies, teams, groups, institutions, etc.) are opening beyond their traditional boundaries to solicit external contributions to their problems and challenges. Consumer products behemoth Proctor & Gamble, for example, currently sources 35% of new product and service ideas externally from participative global R&D communities such as InnoCentive where scientists solve R&D problems for cash rewards.

Wikinomics refers to online ideas marketplaces like InnoCentive as ideagoras. Other examples of global ideas, R&D and project communities in life sciences and technology include NineSigma, InnovationXchange Network, Eureka Medical, YourEncore, Innovation Relay Centres and TopCoder.

Ideagoras give a huge boost to efficiency in at least two primary ways:

1) Multidisciplinary approaches accelerate advance of human progress
Ideagoras expose challenges to participants from both within the field and across many other fields allowing infinite creativity to be applied. In the gold mining example in Wikinomics, a plethora of diverse solutions using applied math, advanced physics, intelligent systems, computer graphics, organic solutions to inorganic problems, etc. were received, 50% of which were completely new ideas and over 80% of which were useful.

Ideagoras allow a wildly diverse and large group of participants to apply their special tools and approaches to problems. In this saturation of approaches, a fuller solution set of possible answers is quickly obtained and the pace of the Earth's meme encephalization, the increasing interconnectedness of human minds extending and implementing knowledge and information, is quickened.

2) More effective use of human capital - mindset of abundance
Ideagoras allow human capital to be more effectively utilized both inside and outside the organization. Internally, just as companies may be using only 10% of their patented IP, they are most assuredly also underutilizing their staff in terms of project fit vs. skills and interests. Instead of being assigned to projects, staff members could self-select projects of value and interest by participating in remunerative ideagoras or open-source practice communities as in the software example.

The new abundance of external human capital resources promotes the corporate mentality that a land grab to get the best people on staff is no longer required, just the need to provide the best project incentives. An entity's workforce can extend way beyond any salaried employees, to those employed elsewhere and others. Ideagoras provide a tremendous opportunity for retired or underemployed participants, such as women, to find activities where they can make a useful contribution.