This is truly an excellent example of the intersection of Open Innovation, globalization and technology. I saw it in a SpringWise, a publication reporting on new business ideas. This is a new project that aims to bring income opportunities to those in the developing world using the ubiquitous mobile phone.
Targeting the more than 2 billion literate mobile phone subscribers in the developing world, txteagle aims to help alleviate high unemployment levels in many rural areas of countries like Kenya with a crowdsourcing approach that offers new ways to earn extra money. The service connects corporations with small tasks to be completed—currently, the most common ones include software localization and translation into local dialects for companies like Nokia—and native people who can complete them in minutes by cell phone. Tasks are sent to multiple phone users by text message—”translate the phrase, ‘address book’ into Giriama,” for example—and answers are accepted as accurate when the majority of users provide the same response. Compensation is determined by the number of times an individual’s response agrees with the consensus; penalties are imposed for wrong answers, while “don’t know” responses make no contribution. Over time the system learns a particular user’s expertise, and can actively select the most appropriate tasks for them. It can also weight answers from long-term and historically accurate users higher than others, making it necessary to involve fewer other individuals when those users respond. Payment is made either to a bank account connected with an individual’s phone number—accessible at any post office or local kiosk—or via airtime credit transfers.
Ruth & Betty, Home-Maker / Village Phone Operator, Butare, Rwanda. Ruth is the mother of four and while she reads and writes English fluently, she hasn’t been able to find much work in her local village. She’d like to own a phone, but hasn’t been able to save up the money. Betty operates a village phone in Ruth’s village. By ‘renting’ the phone to Ruth for 50 cents/hour during off-peak times when Betty has no other customers, Ruth is able to complete 3 hours of transcription tasks – accumulating $7.50 into her savings account and $1.50 into Betty’s account. A couple of more sessions like that and Ruth will be able to afford her own phone!
Open Innovation is an opportunity. It defines the potential for breaking down the barriers internally within an organization, and externally with that organization’s ecosystem.
In order to realize that potential, however, the entities in the ecosystem need to be connected. I call this Connected Innovation. Connected Innovation is what unlocks the potential of Open Innovation. However, connectedness in itself will deliver the result – its the frameworks that make Connected Innovation real that delivers the power. And technology delivers the scale.
This concept of connectedness has been reinforced just recently at the 3rd Annual Open Innovation Conference in Las Vegas when Jeff Bellairs, G-Win Director for General Mills, said: “Open Innovation is not about being external. It’s about being connected.” Jason Husk, Group Manager Technology Brokerage for Clorox, supported this stance and presented a relationship between technology, consumers, and business results as a model for connection. And Chris Thoen announced P&G’s launch of Connect + Develop 2.0 OI model through which the company will focus on collaborating with partners for mutual value creation.
Recent research undertaken by Computer Weekly in the US as part of a project with BT found that over 67% of respondents expect collaboration to become an important driver of innovation over the next 12 months. This is significant. 83% have sufficient budget to facilitate collaboration within the organisation, and 80% say the collaborative technologies being used have not been impacted by any budgetary changes affecting the wider IT infrastructure. This is also significant in light of the GFC.
In terms of the benefits collaboration brings to the organisation, 93% of respondents said better communication, 83% more effective staff, and 73% improved productivity. Faster innovation was cited by 70%, and lower costs by a similar number. In terms of how collaborative tools and techniques positively benefit innovation, 23% said saving time, 20% said collaboration enables the sharing of ideas, 17% said saving money or reducing costs, and 17% said sharing information over a wider area.
The challenge for these organizations is to build frameworks that allow collaboration to actively facilitate innovation. Most organizations continue to struggle with how to facilitate effective collaboration – just throwing in a bunch of tools usually does not work. It’s the building of frameworks such as Connected Innovation that provides the way forward.