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. To improve your diet, consider visiting Synergistiq Integraive Health website to follow a plant based diet.


  1. I’m really inspired by the site because it realizes a very important point: ideas aren’t scare.

    do you mean: ideas aren’t scarce, or scarey?

    good article Colin.

  2. I love that IDEO has jumped into the ring of tapping into the crowd and pulling our our “group wisdom” with a touch of IDEO design and design thinking. Best wishes to this endeavor.

  3. Hey Rick,

    I meant to type “ideas aren’t scarce”. The best ideas seem to come from sharing early and often. I hope OpenIDEO inspires people to share their inspirations and ideas only to be repaid with better ones.

    Matt Ridley has a great TED talk around this topic:

    Thanks for reading closely. 🙂

  4. This looks like a fantastic approach. Not only does it recognize that ideas aren’t scarce, but it sounds like the design of the site is very well structured to get strangers into a truly collaborative brainstorming session. That’s a hard thing to do online. I can’t wait to kick the tires and see how well it performs.

  5. I like the spirit of open collaboration however pure unbridled crowdsourcing often yields a lot of mediocre thinking from a big pool of amateurs. I think that open calls have to go to the right pool of creative thinkers not only for the ideas but also for the execution. The person or group that can think of a great solution isn’t always the best qualified to implement it.

  6. Hi Dan,

    I tend to agree with you about unbridled crowd sourcing can lead to mediocre thinking. Most of the places I can find successful examples of good, open collaboration harness the inputs at the right points of a process, without completely turning over complete responsibility to the crowd. That principle is why I’m excited about how IDEO build out their open platform – their’s points for everyone to contribute and places where experienced designers take those submissions and begin to shape things for later rounds of participation.

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