Aug 10

Crowd-Sourced Pay Raise

Today I spotted this link in @faris’s Twitter feed. It’s a homegrown report comparing the current salaries of account planners in large advertising agencies. Now salary comparison reports are nothing new, and I have zero interest in what account planners are paid, but the way this report seems to have come into existence is pretty incredible.

According to the foreword in the report, the author ( Heather LeFevre ) found herself in a pretty normal predicament; she felt she was underpaid, but couldn’t prove it. So instead of sitting on her hands, she put together an anonymous survey and sent it out to her network inquiring about their skill level and pay scale. She promised to share out the results and she’s been conducting this experiment for a few years. So, with a cheap web survey and a decent address book, she completely turned an age old process on it’s head.

This is pretty inspiring for me for a few reasons. First, instead of wringing her hands that she didn’t have the information to figure out her problem, she just went after the data. Instead of reinventing the wheel, she used simple tools she had at her disposal- an anonymous survey and an email. The data we don’t have often seems to be the first roadblock to progress; we don’t start because we’re not sure. This is such a great example of how to keep it simple and get it going.

Second, she solved for her problem, not all the world’s problems. If she would have stepped back and thought to herself “this is a big idea, how can create a salary report for the entire industry” she probably would have failed. Even limiting to the industry, she probably wouldn’t have gotten enough responses to complete the first report. By keeping the effort small, she could actually engage her audience. There are salary comparison websites all over the web (Glassdoor.com, Salary.com). These sites promise to share salary data, but they never seem to get enough scale to be useful. The idea behind the concept is so big people don’t know where they fit in the process. I love how she used technology to amplify her effort and didn’t make building the tool the object of her project.

There’s a big idea here for me. It’s the same thing that drove the success of Facebook (and social media in general). How can you use technology to amplify the network, connect people and then get the hell out of the way. The Internet isn’t much different than a good house party- if you can set the stage for people to interact, the party will usually take care of itself.

Aug 10

Going Open

The last few years has seen quite a few companies build idea generation platforms. Some have gone the semi-open route, retaining a network of participant who will contribute to mostly private challenges. Others have gone radically open, Victor & Spoils and 99 Designs post the actual client briefs calling for entrants to do the work, rewarding a few with the winning ideas. There are some brave experiments going on in this space; it’s a brave new world and no one really knows what’s going to happen here.

Today, IDEO threw it’s hat in ring today launching OpenIDEO. I’m biased, but I think they’ve designed a new evolution for this space. Many sites serve as a platform to capture ideas, but most haven’t truly involved ‘the crowd’ in the process past “hey give me your idea”. OpenIDEO creates Challenges that are designed to lead the community through the design process. Participants contribute inspiration, then generate concepts, and finally help select the best idea in the end. The idea is that everyone can participate as the process diverges and converges toward the final selected solution.

I’m really inspired by the site because it realizes a very important point: ideas aren’t scarce. Now it’s not about gathering tons of those ideas just to collect them, it’s about creating a framework where ideas can inspire each other. I think the smart cookies behind OpenIDEO have nailed this in the site design. The experience basically creates like the largest, most unorthodox design team in the world thinking, submitting, and churning on some really big problems. I have no idea how the site will play out and that’s exactly why I think the site is so important. It’s a big fat social experiment that’s daring, inspired and super smart.

Ok, don’t take my word for it, join in the fun here. There’s two hot challenges up at the moment; one hopes to help Jamie Oliver in his effort to help children improve their diet, the other is aimed at fostering educational tools for the developing world.