A look at OpenIDEO – Enabling Innovation

I just stumbled across OpenIDEO (thanks to @technoshaman) – an open innovation platform for social good.

After a challenge is posted at OpenIDEO.com, the three development phases – inspiration, concepting, and evaluation – are put into motion. Community members can contribute in a variety of different ways, from inspirational observations and photos, sketches of ideas, to business models and snippets of code. Sometimes this can be in the form of a comment; other times, it’s building off a previous person’s work.

People participating in OpenIDEO can provide feedback every step of the way. Between each development phase, IDEO helps shape the journey through framing the challenge, prototyping, and encouraging the conversation.

At the end, a top concept is chosen. All concepts generated are shareable, remix-able, and reusable in a similar way to ‘creative commons’. The hope is that some of these concepts will become reality outside of OpenIDEO.com.

OpenIDEO has framed the workflow of collaboration as:

Inspiration -> Concepting -> Evaluation -> Collaboration

..and they’ve built the platform to direct the user experience through.  It’s a framework that enables output off of ideas.   They’ve recognized that the process of ideation to collaboration is enabled through a specific user flow and moderation and curation of process.

The gathering of subjective perspectives (aggregation, sometimes called federation) and the framework that defines the information, interaction and user flows is what enables collective sense-making and sharing of group patterns (solutions, problems, habits, activities).  These patterns can in turn can be related and applied as localized solutions specific to context.

It’s not just moderation or curation of process that’s necessary –  immediation is key in this process – the autodocumentation and reflexive analysis of the process itself.  This enables amplification, clarification and ongoing reevaluation of current mode/state of the process.

The OpenIDEO framework ends at a “winning idea” – for me, that’s where it really gets interesting.  The selection of a winning solution is not where the challenge is truly solved – only where it actually begins, at the application and actualization of the solutions.

A framework that includes the OpenIDEO workflow (Inspiration -> Concepting -> Evaluation -> Collaboration), the tracking of already existing solutions, and the ability to learn, share, and amplify the entire sense-making process through immediation is what really can spur widespread innovation.

What we really need is a completely open source architecture that enables the definition of customized and flexible  idea/challenge -> action/solution (innovation) frameworks that can scale based on the scope of the initiative, and a way to manage the co-created value exchange of the ideas.  This includes not just the process outlined by OpenIDEO but a strong framework to manage value of information exchange, action on solutions and tracking of their efficiency or lack thereof.

By acting within this innovation framework, we open ourselves up to organic emergence of creative collaborative solutions that act like memes and can spread like beneficial viruses through our culture. We as the hosts must learn how best to identify, evaluate and spread these viruses to propagate widespread innovation and solutions.



*the OpenIDEO concept of a DQ (design quotient) as identity attribution – that is, a measure of your types of contributions to a specific challenge – is a very interesting idea.  I’m fascinated by the possibilities of action and contribution creating identity, not an avatar or a profile.

The Design Quotient (DQ) is a measure of your contributions to OpenIDEO. It corresponds to how active you are in the inspiration, concepting, and evaluation phases of a challenge. It also measures your collaboration, increasing every time you comment or build on other people’s inspirations and concepts. When you take part in a challenge, you build up your DQ by accruing points.

A DQ can help to publicly identify your design expertise and strengths. Maybe you’re excellent at providing inspiration that shapes the conversation, or you’re great at building off of others’ ideas. Share it with your friends, colleagues, teachers, and even potential employers to give them some insight into what you’re best at.

*OpenIDEO allows the sponsoring of challenges by brands and organizations, and perhaps looks like they will be centered on these types of challenges.  I look forward to the possibilities of brands and organizations being open to innovation themselves through this process as well as helping propogate solutions, but it also brings up an interesting issue – the value of the “intellectual property” or contribution that a participant makes and what they see in return without being exploited for the good of a brand and not for the cause. OpenIDEO has one statement that partially addresses ownership of ideas, but not value exchange:

What happens to the top concepts?
All concepts generated are shareable, remix-able and reusable because the Contributor grants a non-exclusive license to the Challenge Host. Beyond that, organizations we partner with on challenges may choose to implement the top ideas.

Who owns the concepts?
The Contributor(s) own the concept(s) generated on OpenIDEO which they non-exclusively license to the Challenge Host for possible publication.

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