Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cisco's Search for the Big Idea; I-Prize

Cisco Systems created their I-Prize, a global competition of innovation, to harvest one idea from the hundreds in their field.  And then allowed the culled ideas to either live or die in the field.  The field was a global crowdsourcing evaluation process for new ideas that related to Cisco's future.

By the numbers:
  • $250,000 to the winner
  • 2,500 innovators
  • 1,200 ideas in field
  • 104 countries represented in entries
  • 70% of semifinalist had teamed up with other like minded ideas
  • 40 semifinalist ideas
  • 10 finalists ideas
  • 6 full time employees to manage process
  • 3 months of full time management
"Some of the finalists said that they felt they'd had a crash course in entrepreneurship."
The winner: Smart electricty grid concept.

Guido Jouret, Cisco's CTO noted that organizing the evaluation process was more effort than anticipated, and that Cisco had done like internal processes before attempting the open competition.  That Cisco made a corporate value decision to only capture the IP of the winning idea - all other ideas reverted to the entrants.

In the semifinalist phase Cisco encouraged refinement of ideas by providing a check-list for internal business-plans.  Collaboration was encouraged and a small community was developed to allow entrants to comment on other's ideas.

Ref:  "Inside Cisco's Search for the Next Big Idea" by Guido Jouret in Sept. 2009 Harvard Business Review
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