An Open Innovation Dilemma
Here are two quick interesting observations.
Signal to Noise Ratio: This is my favorite measure of the innovation process. This is the ratio of a signal (what you want – that is, good ideas) to the noise (what you don’t want – the duds). Higher ratios are better. Traditional suggestion boxes have a low signal to noise ratio because you get ideas about everything, even things that don’t matter. And although campaign-based innovation (including open innovation) can yield a higher signal to noise ration, unless you are quite specific with your brief, you will still get a fair amount of “noise.” There has been more noise in this process than had I used just one designer. But given the limited number of entries (<50), this has not been an issue. Had there been thousands of entries – or if the designs being submitted were more complex (e.g., chemical compounds), the evaluation process would have been tedious.
Building on Ideas of Others: Here is the most interesting observation. In the beginning, few designs were of interest. But after a period of time, some good concepts emerged. The website I am using, 99designs.com, allows the other designers to see every logo submitted. They can also see my feedback on which designs I like the most. As I created my short-list, certain designers decided to ”build on” (plagiarize?) the concepts I liked. Although this resulted in an improved design, it also presented an ethical dilemma. Only one designer is awarded the prize. Do I select the best design – even if it is a variation on earlier work by someone else? Or do I do the “fair thing” and award to the person who developed the original concept?
Building on the ideas of others is critical to innovation. Let’s face it, most new ideas are just improvements on old ideas. But financially-based, winner-take-all competitions can impede collaboration and innovation. They may force knowledge/creative hording.
In this situation, a reasonable solution might be for me to split the award money; a percentage to the person who developed the winning concept and a percentage to the person who developed the best final product. But that is not an option with this open innovation website.
We want collaboration and open innovation. Yet, if people feel their ideas are being stolen, this will have the opposite effect.
What thoughts/observations do you have on this topic?