Putting Our Heads Together

Netflix made news a couple of years ago by holding a contest that challenged people to improve its recommendation algorithm by 10 percent. The prize was nothing to sniff at—the company promised, and delivered, $1 million to the first team that delivered results. 

“Open sourcing” or “Crowdsourcing,” as this kind of collaboration is often referred to, is catching on in many circles as an efficient way to improve products, market them, or even conceive new ones. It’s an attractive concept for companies, because even an organization like 3M, which was built on innovation, can’t conceive of all possible ideas. Publicly issuing a challenge to the entire internet allows companies to get in touch with an almost infinite number of individuals or groups with ideas just waiting to be championed. There are a lot of smart people out there, and companies that can figure out a way to collaborate with them will have found a new way to come up with potentially “$1 million ideas.”    

Have you seen a clever example of open sourcing? How do you think it might apply in the dental industry?

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7 comments so far

  1. Leslie on

    I have been in the dental industry for for almost 14 years and I consider that the dental industry(offices) are really lacking knowledge in marketing among other things. Teams are so busy trying to put out the “fires” of the day that the strategies and systems to allow patients to find them are left to luck almost.
    So I think that a open sourcing with marketeres, real patients, staff and dentists has great potencial.

  2. Grant Chyz on

    Hello Keith,
    3M ESPE certainly tries to engage certain segments of the dental world with various meetings (by invitation). If you put questions or problems out on the internet, You might get some great ideas, but how would you sort them out? I have learned that how an idea is presented (and to whom it is presented) matters. In addition, how the question is framed certainly has an effect on the answers or ideas that are generated (see “How We Decide”). It would be interesting to see how many good ideas have come from brain storming sessions in the CID. I would guess that when a group of reasonably bright dentists get a sense of the market, they can apply their clinical knowledge in a way that is slightly different from sales, marketing, or scientific knowledge, resulting in helpful insight.

    Of course, if you are offering a million dollars for the next great idea, you might generate a tidal wave of ideas…

    • 3M ESPE on

      Hi Grant
      I think it is worth exploring all opportunities for the generation of new ideas. One of the best ways a company can continue to provide new and innovative products and services, is with a robust ideation process to fill the hopper. I definitely agree the potential downside of crowd sourcing could be the challenge of dealing with so much input, but the challenge is not insurmountable. Bottom line, in this very competitive environment we are always looking for ways to improve and further differentiate. Now about that million dollars…

  3. dave Sipos on

    This is a wonderful concept and it can applie to more then just innovation of materials. There are many smart folk who also have wonderful marketing concepts that could help any organization move technology with there own expertise.Thanks for the article

  4. William J. McKibben, DDS on

    I think that another great application of this idea that dentists have used is to request bids for design work. Some have had web sites designed as well as logos designed. It can save the practice a lot of money and get some insight from very talented people.

  5. 3M ESPE on

    This is a great idea and suggestion. The Internet has allowed access to an almost unlimited resource. It is an environment ( that can be ) rich in intellect and knowledge. What did we ever do before it was available ? 🙂


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