The Open Innovation platform should be managed by a pool of Project Managers (PM) in charge of dealing with the innovation challenges. Every time a stakeholder (Seeker) wants to open a challenge, a PM is assigned to the challenge and follows a series of steps:

  • The PM works with the Seeker on the formulation and definition of the challenge.
  • Once the challenge is defined, the Seeker has to set the rewards for the winning solutions. There may be many rewards of different amounts in order to encourage greater participation.
  • The PM has to define with the Seeker the terms of agreement to be offered in the tender.
  • Beyond the registered innovators, the PM should search for others outside, especially when the challenge requires expertise that is rather scarce among the registered innovators.
  • Once all potential innovators have been invited to participate to the challenge, these have to submit their solution by the specified deadline, complying with the stated requirements.
  • When submitting the solutions, the PM screens them all to ensure that they all meet the requirements established by the Seeker, prior to delivering them to the Seeker.
  • Then, the Seeker may decide which solutions are suitable and award as many as he/she considers, or none at all if no solution is good enough.
  • In the case of discarded solutions, Seekers should sign an agreement upon which they cannot use these ideas without the Solver’s permission. To guarantee its compliance, a controller could carry out audits on the “Seeker firm” to make sure that the ideas are not used.

Beyond this synthetic presentation of the operation system, there are many critical issues that require a more thorough and detailed explanation.

Formulation of the challenge. The critical starting point in challenge-driven innovation is defining the problem that needs a solution. It is convenient to formulate it in ways that lets professionals from diverse scientific or industry fields understand it. This involves describing the problem without the usual technical terminology, but rather using more conceptual terminology. Furthermore, it is essential to think and describe the constraints of the desired solution thoroughly and accurately, so as to make sure that the presented solutions can adapt to the demand, but also to allow for some out-of-the box solutions to be presented.

Making the deal. Intellectual Property (IP) rights should be carefully protected. The initial broadcast of a challenge should include only an abstract of its definition. Solvers interested in details and requirements should first have to accept a “Solver Agreement” that describes the reward and the time allowed for submission, as well as the time period for reviewing and judging solutions, and the confidentiality and IP transfer clauses for accepted solutions.

Anonymity is sacred. Innovators working on a particular challenge should be unaware both of who is working on it and of how many solutions are being submitted as well as the nature of these solutions. The identity of both Solvers and Seekers should not be revealed to either party, especially in private challenges. Public challenges are more flexible regarding this issue, whereas in non-profit challenges, the visibility of both the Seeker and Solver is recommended.

Short-listing of potential solvers. In some cases, Seekers might wish to make a short list of the Solvers who want to get involved in their innovation challenge, in order to save them time in assessing a large number of proposed solutions. To help them do so, it is possible to get listings of innovators specialized in specific areas or with proven specific skills, which would also be ranked according to the ratings based on peer assessment and results obtained.

Intellectual property (IP) transfer. This depends on the nature of the assignment, considering that some innovations are only applicable to one Seeker, because of the uniqueness of Seeker or because it is exclusively tailored, like in the case of graphic design. In the cases where the proposed solutions could potentially be applicable to more Seekers, there are different options to take into account:

  • IP may be fully transferred to the Seeker, when the reward is related to the innovation.
  • IP may be transferred under a non-exclusive license to the Seeker, if the reward is too low.
  • The platform could act as an IP investor, when the Seeker is not offering enough rewards given the value of the potential solution. Seekers should relinquish any rights to use the information provided in a solution that is not accepted. This should be enforced by contracts between the platform and the Seeker allowing the right to audit the Seeker in case of doubt.

Assessing contribution. When the challenge is formulated the requirements and assessment criteria have to be clearly defined and properly communicated to the platform innovators. When the solutions are presented, there is a board of experts in the matter in charge of screening every proposal and deciding whether it is suitable or not. Then, selected solutions are forwarded to the Seeker, which may count with the support of the board in deciding the most appropriate solutions and assignment of rewards. One prize or multiple prizes may be assigned, or no prizes at all if there are no suitable solutions. In the case of solutions worked out by a group of innovations, the criteria to assign rewards to each contributor should be clearly defined at the outset. There should be a chat and videoconference feature that could be recorded so as to fairly assess each solver’s contribution.

The Open Innovation System should also encompass “passive participation” consisting of “liking” or “disliking” proposed ideas (voting). That would actually be one of the main functions of the system. Voters’ reputation could also depend on how certain they have been in their assessments when voting on others’ contributions. It should not be visible for voters to see how many votes every option obtained, to avoid group behavior bias. The section on reward and reputation system develops this in further detail.

This article is from the White Paper “Envisioning Open Innovation in Destinations”, available for download in

Posted by Jordi Pera

Jordi Pera is an economist passionate about tourism, strategy, marketing, sustainability, business modelling and open innovation. He has international experience in marketing, intelligence research, strategy planning, business model innovation and lecturing, having developed most of his career in the tourism industry. Jordi is keen on tackling innovation and strategy challenges that require imagination, entail thoughtful analysis and are to be solved with creative solutions.

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