A Challenge to Find Challenges

October 12, 2011  

Most organizations focus their energies on ideas, suggestions, and opinions.

But for innovation to be efficient and focused, you need to ask better questions.

What do you do when you don’t even know what questions to ask?

Run a challenge to find challenges.

That’s what InnoCentive is doing with the support of the Economist and Qualcomm.

Their latest challenge: ”Is there an urgent problem in your local community that you think can be solved in 2012?  Submit a compelling photo or video taken on a mobile device that captures a solvable problem or need. Help make the world a better place in 2012.”

Those of you who have followed by writings will know that I am not a big fan of “idea platforms.”  In fact, in my new book there is a tip called, “Asking for Ideas is a Bad Idea.”

Why?

Most companies spend a lot of time gathering ideas.  They ask customers, vendors, employees, and crowds: “What do you think we should do?”  The reality is, everyone has an opinion or suggestion: “Increase the amount of foam in the lattes we sell.”  Sometimes the idea is a solution: “We could do xyz to get more customers in our stores.”  From my experience, the ideas you gather do not provide real insights.

But if you have an idea platform, it can still be incredibly useful.

But instead of looking for opinions, suggestions or even solutions, use your crowds to help you ask better questions. Get people to think of that real opportunities.  If you are in the retail business, a good submission might be: “Our shopping malls do not attract enough children – in particular those in elementary school.  What can we do to get these kids to drag their parents to our mall?”  This is not a solution but rather a challenge.  If this opportunity is deemed valuable, then you can then use your challenge platform to source solutions.

Use idea platforms to find better questions.  This provides a wide range of opportunities that you might not currently see?

Then, when you have good questions, you can use your challenge platforms to find solutions that can be implemented.

P.S. You can learn more about Economist challenge on the InnoCentive website.

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  1. Innovation Excellence | How to Use Yammer to Drive Innovation on January 2nd, 2012 2:01 pm

    [...] Steve Shapiro also shares good insights on challenge-driven innovation on his blog. [...]