Innocentive Case Study Analysis Example

Case | HBS Case Collection | June 2008 (Revised October 2009) (A)

by Karim R. Lakhani

Abstract, a firm connecting R&D labs of large organizations to diverse external solvers through innovation contests, has to decide if it will enable collaboration in its community. Case covers the basics of a distributed innovation system works and the advantages of having external R&D. Links how concepts of open source are applied to a non-software setting. Describes the rationale for participation by solvers in innovation contests and the benefits that accrue to firms. Raises the issue if a community can be shifted to collaboration when competition was the basis of prior interaction.

Keywords: Collaborative Innovation and Invention; Open Source Distribution; Research and Development; Competition; Cooperation;


you compare the use of collaboration on the InnoCentive@Work program that Seekers can usefor their internal employees, collaboration usually works well. This is because the people in theworkforce are all working toward a goal that they are cognizant of (and paid salaries), whileSolvers on the InnoCentive website are not told who the Seekers are, nor how Seekers will usethe solutions and contribute to society. This anonymity makes independent competition thebest method for most projects on at InnoCentive.While Competition is the easiest way to get the most solutions from a diverse group of people,it is not to be said that InnoCentive should not support its Solver community more.On February 25, 2010, InnoCentive launched a discussion forum for Solvers to connect with oneanother, learn more about InnoCentive and exchange information about open innovation.Some Solvers have used this as a platform to suggest collaboration on a certain case and willleave their contact information, but not very many people respond to these threads becausethe forum is somewhat off the beaten path of the My IC page.One Solver, appropriately named


responded to a post titled “Understanding theProblem” saying:“

Good luck getting an answer for your question. Everything on here is geared for theseeker and the solver is left in limbo regarding his or her work. Don't waste your timegoing into a lot of detail because if your solution doesn't fit what the seeker wants tohear, it will just be rejected with little or no explanation. And since you never get to seethe winning or competing entries, you have no way to learn how to improve your nextsubmittal.”

Another major issue that Solvers voiced was regarding the Project Rooms, which hold the moredetailed descriptions of the Challenge, but Solvers must sign an agreement before entering.Every time a Solver does this, the Challenge is registered in My IC, whether or not they actuallywant to solve it, and furthermore raise the tally of Solvers “working” on the project sometimesinto the hundreds. Solver



that a distinction is needed between those interested insolving the Challenge, and those just taking a gander at the case specs. “Huge numbers in roomsstrongly discourage me from putting any of my time into a Challenge even if it really interests me.”

Since the forum was created less than 40 posts have been made, signaling that this might notbe the best way to achieve a Solver Community. A chatroom could work in that regard, whereSolvers can give and take instant feedback regarding cases, set up teams for projects that allowfor collaboration and overall establish a sense of belonging in the community. A chatroomwould only work if everyone agreed before entering that anything shared inside is free game,and therefore be warned not to divulge too valuable of ideas without considering its audience.Finally, my last recommendation would be to also create unique Solver Profile Pages where


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