Why the World Needs Your Ideas

by STEVE BLOOM

second thoughts

There was once a time when your ideas didn’t matter. That was a time before the information age when ordinary people didn’t share much information let alone their ideas. Of course, times are different now and people are sharing so much that it impossible for any one person to process it all.

But now that everyone has access to all this information, the question of what to do with it comes into play. That’s where you and your ideas come in. It’s a part of an interesting trend I’ve noticed that I think you could take advantage of.

Globalized Ideas

More and more places seem to be opening themselves up to your ideas. Let’s start with Proctor and Gamble. They have a program on their website called Connect and Develop which openly solicits new ideas from anyone willing to send them.

These ideas range from new products to logistics problems to pretty much anything the company could use. They depend so much on outsiders for new product lines that their website states that around 40% of their new products come from people outside the company.

Of course, Proctor & Gamble isn’t the only company to solicit outsiders for ideas. A company called Threadless asks for ideas from the public for T-shirt designs on their website. If selected, your T-shirt design wins you $2000 in cash and an assortment of other prizes.

But don’t think that business is the only area where your ideas are valuable. There are ways for just about anyone to give their opinions on rather complex issues. In fact, there’s been a very interesting trend with governments soliciting your ideas in a very unusual way: online games.

For example, the World Bank started an online game called Urgent Evoke in 2010. The way it works is simple, each Wednesday night a different world problem such as food security, energy and water rights is sent to players to solve. Each person plays the game, reads up on the different issues involved with it and figures out various strategies to overcome the problem.

Each of the games are based upon real-world issues and problems. The gamers responses are evaluated for their real-world usefulness and practicality. The World Bank even gave out awards to “winners” such as mentorships, scholarships and start-up money to those who provided the most valuable feedback.

Another online game called World Without Oil was setup in 2007. This game was set in a future where oil has run out. Gamers were asked to participate as if it was real-life to see what people’s reactions would be. The data was collected by the makers of the game to use in their own research.

Opening Up to Your Ideas

It seems as if all these groups trying to get your information would be something relatively new. But in fact a government or business opening their doors to ideas from the public has been seen on rare occasions throughout history.

In 1714 the British government set up a prize to solve the longitude problem. At that point in history, ships could sail while easily knowing the latitude. However, the longitude was really difficult to estimate which was a big problem because it put people and ships way off course. The problem was thought to be completely unsolvable. However, because the problem was outsourced a series of solutions eventually started in 1765 by a self-educated watchmaker named John Harrison.

Another more modern version of this way to solve problems was established by the X Prize Foundation. It was setup to achieve various high tech solutions such as awarding money to the first private company to put someone into space safely. Just recently they announced a prize for the first company to develop a Star Trek style Tricorder.

Complex Problems

It’s probably true that you’re not going to be the one to solve an X Prize-style high tech problem. However, a trend does seem to be forming where your ideas are becoming more desired and valued. And I think that has a lot to do with how complex world problems are starting to become.

It seems as if finding solutions to problems is becoming harder and harder. That makes sense if you consider the fact that problems with easy solutions will probably be solved first leaving behind the more difficult ones. That means more people are needed to pool their answers. Open innovation sourcing will be necessary and the world will start to crave your ideas more and more. But for now the only question you should answer is, will you be ready?

Have you ever been to any of those websites asking for your ideas?  Do you have any ideas you think would work for them?
photo credit: twenty_questions

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Comments

  1. I love the example of the British government solving the longitude problem. Seriously, I can’t think of a better way to generate ideas then to outsource them. And their are so many available resources especially in a day that we are more connected than ever.

    I wonder if there are any blogs that exist that basically just post a topic/inquiry/question and let the world answer it.

    Anyway, great post!

  2. This is a great post. Every business could learn from this as well – listen to your employees, ask them questions, get their input – makes for better solutions AND happier employees. (Love ‘win-wins’)

  3. Great post. It’s funny how we sometimes think working in a vacuum is better than having 2 or more heads. (GUILTY).

    I love the power of the collective mind. I ‘m part of a mastermind group, whenever one of us has a problem, we just ask the others to help solve it. Ultimately our ideas join to create other ideas and solve problems quickly and efficiently.

    ps i also loved the example of the longitude problem. very interesting.

  4. I actually have bought some stuff from threadless for Christmas last year. Love that place. I didn’t know about the longitude story before, that’s kind of awesome. I think a great thing with the internet and all the crowd sourcing is that people are sharing their ideas in mediums never before imagined. Can’t wait to see what comes next!

  5. I could have not found this article at a better time. I also find many of your articles very useful. But back to this post, I have this idea for a website and have been sitting on it for years. Well this year I have finally decided to launch it. Am I scared? of course I am, but you’re right, someone somwhere out in internet land will need my website and will find it useful. So I thank you and I thank God, angels, whomever for directing me to your site :)

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