Traditional migratory cultures move in caravans from one place to another, driven by their immediate needs and the location of available resources. Backpackers travel the world nearly naked in their quest for adventure, learning, and the thrill of the unknown. It is with a similar onus that today’s problem solvers and future-industry-disrupters engage with the world via crowdsourcing. In many ways, the realm of incentive competitions is the final frontier: a place without gatekeepers or resumes, a blank canvas on which anyone can help paint the picture of our collective future.
Who are the innovators?
People that can and desire to solve big problems can be found in every country, from every walk of life, and in every age group. An innovator is simply someone who has focused their own diversity of skills, knowledge, and creativity on projects inspired by their passion for making the world a more functional place. One might call them the "intellectual nomads" of today's world. They occupy and help define a constantly changing space where the virtual and tangible aspects of our lives merge seamlessly.
Genesis of an identity
Going back to September of 2011 - the “Human Potential” summit in New York took place under the Ideas Economy series of events organized by The Economist.“The Next Level of Competition” was the theme that year, and it marked the “discovery” of this new breed of top-notch professionals who unraveled after the global financial crisis of 2008; a time when the need for innovation, talent, and most importantly -- better information systems to provide affordable solutions -- reached their peak.
Dwayne Spradlin, Chief Executive Officer of InnoCentive - a pioneer platform for open innovation and crowdsourcing at the time, introduced the first-time problem solvers community and the extraordinary power of a challenge:
“Ladies and gentlemen, I think I discovered where we will find the creativity, the passion and the talent that will help us solve some of the most important problems facing us in the world today.
I think I know where the potential, the people exist that can help us solve problems or the creativity to inspire the next generation products or the next billion dollars idea. I think I know where the creative reserves exist to help power the next generation of government and business.
It is largely in plain sights. It is all around us. It's you and me, and everybody on planet Earth.
It is critically important to find the tools to essentially allow us to effectively tap all these brilliant and inspiring people, that are going to be the next generation of problem solvers, business, and political leaders.
The profound question really is: how to effectively tap that brilliance, that capacity?
The answer to this question is in something very simple, so unexpectedly simple that we miss it on a daily basis. It is the power of a challenge, the challenge as a precision instrument to focus people on the problems that matter. The power of a challenge is actually extraordinary. Getting the right people to work on the right problems at the right time is game-changing.”
After this introduction, Mr. Spradlin invited the audience to watch together a short video montage called “I'm a Solver,” where real people from all over the world identified themselves as incentive-prize winning problem solvers who brought about extraordinary breakthroughs. Each shared their insights about the ability of incentive competitions to further realize human potential as a whole and, ultimately, create a fundamental shift in how the world operates.
These problem solvers were the vanguard; the first generation to tap the power of online crowdsourcing and open innovation. These originals were brave enough to travel into new territory, walking away from the status quo, and into the unknown.
A new way of creating value, new purpose in life
I happen to be one of these "early-adopter" crowdsourcing competitors. Even then, I was thrilled at the thought of being among the first to write a new chapter in the history of the world, not only by being a virtually-present part of this high profile event, but because through it, I stepped into a whole new way of being as a problem-solver.
Speaking as an innovator, crowdsourcing offers us a way out of a crisis, a venue for reinvention, a new life, and a pathway to greatness. It is so much bigger than a simple career change. Crowdsourcing is a bona fide opportunity to have the immediate, tangible, and exhilarating impact on the world as it is, as opposed to just creating another concept of what it “could be.”
In this new world, I was about to meet many extraordinary people.
Open innovation became the crossroads of some the most inspiring people I've known. Coming from wildly different lives, expertise, and cultures, everything we knew ourselves to be had a new meaning in this context. A diverse and wild world of ideas, collaboration, and competition where we only breakthrough when we choose to boldly enter the unknown. I can't imagine ever looking back.