My former employer Forrester and my former co-worker Chris Townsend recently wrote a report called Tapping The Wisdom of Experts. This is an extension or subset of the concept of Innovation Networks which Navi Radjou has been writing about for years at Forrester and can be seen as a subset as well, in a certain sense, of crowdsourcing. It is also a good summary of the topic covered in Part 6 of this series.
(To be sure we’re on the same page:
Innovation networks = “Firms seamlessly weave internally and externally available invention and innovation services to optimize the profitability of their products, services, and business models.”
Crowdsourcing = sourcing small and large jobs from anyone and everyone.
Expert sourcing = sourcing from specialized, professional-grade, vetted experts.
Wisdom of crowds = the wisdom of the crowd’s collective intelligence outweighs any individuals.)
Expert sourcing involves several actors that fall into the mold of innovation networks:
Inventor: the experts (enterprise R&D, academics, government labs, retired technicians, you know, experts.)
Transformers and Financiers: corporations who buy, develop, and fund the innovations
Broker: expert sourcing providers who bring together the experts and corporations.
Innovation networks and expert sourcing further erode the purpose and importance of the large corporation and a massive, closed R&D facility. With the aggregation, moderation and policing of transactions, NineSigma and Innocentive facilitate this possibility. Along with online collaboration improvements, the need to have a large building or organization under which a multitude of people need to sit are further eroded. Smaller, more focused enterprises are made possible as transaction and search costs between inventor and transformers/financiers decrease (lower transaction costs, after all, are the reason companies formed in the first place).
While it appears this market is pretty small in the grand scheme of things, companies large and small will not be able to afford to only look for internally for innovations, they must search the horizon, getting input and help from customers, suppliers, and experts around the world. Tool providers are and will continue to emerge on all fronts, but if firms do not weave these tools and innovation sources into their processes, they will eventually be left behind. The key, of course, is not to hand over the reigns to outside innovators or customer whims but to incorporate the knowledge gained into your own expertise and discretion to mold it into real, profitable innovation.
Companies in the space:
Innocentive (Problems issued to recruited scientists)
NineSigma (Sends out RFPs to network of universities, inventors, businesses)
YourEncore (Posts projects to retired technical people)
yet2 (Matching and providing services/resources to IP buyers/sellers)