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ideXlab bring a novel approach to open innovation

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ideXlab bring a novel approach to open innovation

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Crowdsourcing is in my opinion the single best application of the principles of social business on the market today.  The opening up of knowledge work to the masses has delivered untold benefits to organizations, be they profit seeking or otherwise.  It’s also given the masses the opportunity to get involved in projects that would previously have proven beyond them, whether that’s a cool citizen science project or applying their previously untapped knowledge on a commercial challenge.

That has traditionally been the intellectual basis for the whole thing.  As Bill Joy famously said, “whoever you work for, the smartest people work for someone else”.  So there’s an understanding that you need to tap into external knowledge, but more than that, there’s an understanding that you won’t necessarily know where that expertise exists.

Thus the innovation challenge acts as a lighthouse that lets talented people have a go at solving it.  There’s little organizational cost involved in filtering out those whose abilities don’t match their beliefs, so it seems a win win to open things up as far and wide as possible.

So it was interesting to speak to the chaps behind French based innovation platform ideXlab last week.  Their approach is slightly different to the norm in that their primary selling point is their database of experts.  This expert is comprised of notable people in a range of fields, and includes published academics, industry experts and so on.

When a client comes to ideXlab with a challenge, this database is scoured to compile a list of 100 people that could add value to the project.  The system then allows the client to anonymously contact the experts identified to further explore the potential of working together on the challenge.  Up to three communications are allowed to try and establish some kind of mutual understanding.

ideXlab’s Pierre Bonard believes this approach has a number of benefits over the innovation marketplace approach used by Innocentive et al.

“The web ‘marketplaces’ (as Innocentive, Innoget…) have to invest and create an expert database (200k to 400k for the biggest). It is difficult for them to be versatile or to qualify the actual expertise of their members as this is declarative.

The expert search engines are more complex to implement as data mining and text analysis techniques are required to identify and profile experts and match them against the question asked. But the benefit is that they can apply to any domain and the experts profiling algorithm ensures that the person has a real expertise,” he said.

With some 10 million experts available through their search engine, and what they believe to be a finely tuned algorithm for hunting down the right ones for a particular problem, they believe their approach is the best one for delivering great results for clients.  They have some interesting clients on their roster thus far, so the approach must clearly be working for all concerned.

Certainly a company to keep an eye on.

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