Friday, September 23, 2011

Start-Up Watch COD: ChallengePost and the phenomenon of crowd sourced innovation

When I started in advertising, I worked on a brand that challenged P&G in one of its core categories. We developed a great product and started rolling it out region by region. The product was a triumph of an incredible team of six household product scientists.
Unfortunately, Procter developed a better product in about four months, and rolled it out nationally before we hit 40% ACV. For you see, not to diminish the fact that Procter always attracts great individual scientists, they ALSO had about 300 of those great scientists working in the category. In one day they logged 50X the “man hours” our team did. When focused on developing a product better than ours, they were able to unleash the power of numbers.
Fast forward 20-mumble years. Procter is one of the leaders in crowd sourced innovation, having developed a multimillion dollar platform that enables anyone – yes, anyone – to submit product ideas designed to addressed challenges the company pre-identifies.
Of course, many of the best ideas come from vendors. But the principle of unleashingeveryone against a challenge is merely the logical endgame for a principle I witnessed and got clobbered by more than a couple of decades ago.
Fortunately for the rest of us, a NYC-based start-up called ChallengePost has created a crowd sourced innovation platform that lets virtually any organization or company benefit from strength in numbers.
The platform enables an organization to post a challenge, set a prize for the best entry(ies), and manage the process of collecting and evaluating ideas quickly and easily.
As part of the challenge the organization can provide a variety of different kinds of inputs for use by the would be innovators. For example, several of the major programs delivered thus far were focused on the development of apps that leveraged sponsor-provided data sets.
For example, the City of New York made available a broad range of data sets and asked people to develop apps to solve city problems. Similarly, the US Department of Agriculture posted data sets related to the nutritional value of foods as part of a challenge to help encourage kids to make healthier food choices.
Contestants ask questions and submit ideas along with relevant presentation materials using ChallengePost’s robust platforms. Participating organizations can choose which ideas to post as part of audience voting, as well as curate entries for a professional judging organization.
ChallengePost offers three levels of service at different price points:
  1. Basic service offers a sub domain and a variety of communication tools to publicize your challenge and keep people abreast of progress. This option also gives you access to the platform’s robust challenge management tools.
  2. Premium service enables you to use any domain and enables the sponsoring organization to customize forms and other features so as to tailor the offering to the precise parameters of a challenge. You also get access to greater publicity tools, as well as community features that encourage greater participation and collaboration.
  3. Platform level service enables an organization to run multiple challenges, provides more complete customization, and even enables company employees to post specific challenges if desired.
In addition to the quality of solutions that have been developed in challenges thus far, the company points to a tremendous return on investment using this approach. By empowering virtually anyone to respond to challenges, and by making all submissions the property of the sponsoring organization, the platform often yields ROI well in excess of 20X.
I adore this concept. I don’t know how else to say it. The idea of crowd sourced innovation is of course very sound. And the application of industry standard submission and management tools gives virtually any organization to solve important challenges through the power of the crowd. Great stuff.

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