The world is your R&D unit

We have talked about this multiple times – if you want to have a
competitive advantage, you need to innovate. What if we have no
resources to invest in R&D and innovation. No problem. The whole
world can be your R&D unit 🙂

There are several examples where companies have used outside help
(paying in the range of $0 to hundreds of thousands of dollars)

Lego Mindstorms:
I think it was in 1999 that Lego introduced the Robotics Invention
System. In simple terms, they opened up the SDK for programmers to
create their own games. And they did. There were almost hundreds of
games and variations of existing games that programmers created out of
this system. Lego would put up a catalog showcasing the outside

Innocentive: Innocentive
connects the world’s top scientists with the toughest R&D
challenges out there. One of the solutions will win the money but as a
bonus company gets to see all other entries and approaches to solve the

Technorati: Last november Technorati launched their first developer’s contest.
They were looking for innovative uses of Technorati API. The Grand
prize winner got $2,500 and the runners up got an iPod. Once again, the
company got to see the hundreds of other cool entries (I think)

Top Coder: When I last saw it, there were more than 54,000 members in this community. Top Coder posts design challenges
and the members can participate and win. Once again, one person wins
and the company gets to see the designs of several other folks.

Isn’t this cool? I love the model as long as there is a win-win approach.