OVERVIEW: This paper describes a new business model for advancing
KEYWORDS: Culture change, Business-model innovation, Open innovation, Crowdsourcing
This new strategy, published in
Executing the Strategy
Historically, HH&P has pursued research and technology development primarily through internal development efforts and traditional approaches to problem solving, such as grant funding. The 2007 strategy focused on driving innovation in human health and performance in space through collaboration, with an emphasis on solutions that both meet
To inform the execution of this strategy, HH&P conducted a benchmark study of approximately 20 organizations in academia, industry, and government known for collaborating successfully (Richard and Gonzalez 2009). Several key findings of that study guided the directorate's pursuit of collaborative initiatives. In particular, 100 percent of participating organizations perceived alliances or collaborations as necessary to achieve their innovation goals-all said they could not innovate effectively or achieve their strategic goals without such partnerships. Participating organizations told us they formed partnerships to supplement internal resources and competencies; to gain access to novel ideas and approaches to problem solving; to acquire needed services, licenses, or patents; and to further develop and execute strategic plans. Additionally, survey participants identified managing culture change as essential to successful collaboration, but acknowledged that culture change was the most difficult challenge in the change management process. While these findings validated the collaborative strategy outlined in the 2007 document, they also correctly predicted that culture change would be a significant barrier to overcome as the HH&P executed its new approach.
Now prepared to move forward, HH&P sought to identify specific methodologies to execute its new approach. A review of Lakhani's (2008)
Primed to try new approaches following its strategic planning and assessment of collaborative approaches, HH&P leadership launched an open innovation initiative focused on crowdsourcing. The first step involved conducting several workshops on open innovation and culture change, guided by
While the culture change workshop addressed challenges associated with embedding collaborative approaches to problem solving in an organization that had historically used traditional methods, it did not prepare HH&P leadership for the considerable resistance to change the initiative attracted. This resistance was later attributed to the shift required of the internal workforce, from seeing themselves exclusively as problem solvers to also identifying as solution seekers (Lifshitz-Assaf 2014).
Testing the Approach
Having chosen to pursue crowdsourcing and solution sourcing using open innovation service providers, HH&P began with a set of pilot projects with various providers; each pilot took the form of several small-scale technology challenges.1 The pilot projects were aimed at evaluating the utility and efficacy of using crowdsourcing platforms to access novel solutions for technical problems.
Crowdsourcing via technology sourcing platforms was initially intended only to expand the directorate's existing search capabilities for novel technologies. In HH&P's established technology watch process, subject matter experts identified and monitored emerging, high-impact technologies to augment
HH&P leadership initiated its pilot study by asking project managers to identify top technology needs for human spaceflight risk mitigation where solutions did not yet exist. These needs were derived from a prioritized list of human spaceflight risks identified through HH&P's systematic human-system risk management process. In order to determine whether the technology needs identified were suitable for the pilot project, the leadership team invited
Once the technology needs had been defined, the next step was to identify open innovation service providers who could structure and host the challenges. A competitive procurement process resulted in the selection of two providers, Inn°Centive and yet2.com. A third company, topcoder, was added to the pilot study when an opportunity arose for HH&P to participate in a research project conducted by
From late 2009 through 2010, HH&P initiated 14 challenges seeking solutions to the technology needs identified in preliminary work-seven challenges (including two sponsored by other directorates) were run on Inn°Centive, six on yet2.com and one on topcoder. Subsequently, building on the success of the pilot challenges, the HH&P developed an internal competition capability using the Inn°Centive platform. Called [email protected], this platform was used to host internal challenges across
Inn°Centive is a web-based platform that gives users access to a global solver network of individuals who offer solutions to posted challenges. HH&P worked with Inn°Centive to create a special section on the Inn°Centive website, the
The Inn°Centive pilot featured seven challenges, five HH&P challenges (two of them in collaboration with the
^ Data-driven forecasting of solar events
^ Food packaging and protection
^ Compact aerobic resistive exercise device (with GRC)
^ Medical consumable tracking (with GRC)
^ Augmenting the exercise experience
^ Coordination of sensor swarms for extraterrestrial research (
^ Simple microgravity laundry system (engineering directorate at
These competitions drew a global response; nearly 2,900 project rooms were opened with participants from 80 different countries, providing a strong indicator of solver community interest. They also produced a success rate that was not anticipated by the
The successful results of one of these challenges, which sought an algorithm to provide data-driven forecasting of solar events, generated a great deal of attention outside of
Another challenge resulted in the identification of a unique material (graphite foil) for food packaging for very long-duration space missions. This novel material, which was not typically used in food packaging, met a number of the success criteria for the challenge, prompting HH&P to issue a partial award; the challenge team later tested the material for food packaging. While the material fragmented too easily to serve as a replacement for existing food packaging, the team felt the experience was valuable in that it led them to consider technologies and materials outside the food-packaging industry.
yet2.com is a technology solution sourcing or technology search firm that connects organizations capable of solving a particular problem with organizations seeking solutions. HH&P leadership originally debated whether to run side-by-side competitions of the same technology challenges on Inn°Centive and yet2.com to provide comparative results, but decided against this approach to provide more opportunities for project managers to run unique challenges within funding constraints. The team compromised by offering one challenge (food packaging) on both platforms. In all, HH&P ran six challenges on yet2.com:
^ Hipbone microarchitecture measurement
^ Water disinfection and monitoring
^ Food packaging and protection
^ Extraterrestrial life differentiation
^ Portable imaging
The yet2.com competitions attracted a global response similar to that of the Inn°Centive pilot, producing 234 new leads from many different countries (Table 2).
One competition identified several approaches for imaging the architecture of bone that were new to
topcoder is a company that hosts online competitive programming competitions known as single-round matches, as well as weekly competitions in design and development. topcoder hosted one HH&P competition, to develop an algorithm to optimize the elements of a lunar medical kit, which was constrained with regard to weight, size, and contents. The contest asked participants to optimize the kit design to address a range of medical issues given the defined constraints. This challenge was conducted as part of a research project being carried out by
The competition, which was conducted in just 10 days, generated over 2,800 submissions from nearly 500 individuals around the globe. (Individuals were able to submit multiple solutions to this competition.) This algorithm was incorporated into the existing Integrated Medical Model, a database and algorithm that predicts the likelihood of particular medical events during defined spaceflight missions and optimizes spaceflight vehicle medical systems accordingly. The successful topcoder algorithm competition was adopted by
Finally, HH&P conducted a pilot of internal
The success of the [email protected] pilot was a result of significant work by the information technology team to streamline access to the platform. An internal team worked with Inn°Centive to develop the capability to allow challenge owners to post agencywide challenges and solvers with appropriate
In addition to the successful outcomes for individual challenges, the [email protected] competitions connected individuals across the agency who had not previously worked together by providing a virtual platform in which solvers could share ideas, communicate, and collaborate. This success secured future funding for the [email protected] platform, ensuring a consistent internal crowdsourcing mechanism for the agency. Since the platform's official launch in
Metrics collected to benchmark performance show that challenges are consistently launched every two to three weeks, attracting a high level of interest and participation among solvers. There are usually two to four challenges on the platform at any one time with an average of 40-45 posts per challenge. Challenges address a variety of topics, both technical and nontechnical. Solvers are rewarded based on an award system developed with input from the [email protected] community-solvers submitted ideas for non-monetary awards they would value and then voted on their favorite submissions. This reward system both motivates solvers to participate in challenges and further connects them with others at
[email protected] has also come to serve as a first stop along an open innovation utilization process; it may be used to test challenges within the
This series of competitions demonstrated the value of first searching internally, followed by external competitions to search for additional novel solutions. The project manager noted that these competitions led to additional partnerships to pursue solutions to this important problem. The HH&P management team now believes this is an ideal approach for open innovation competitions: first conduct an internal challenge to identify a potential solution or set of solutions, finetune a challenge topic, or gather initial inputs, and then consider one or more external competitions to gather additional novel solutions.
Facilitating Cultural Change
Despite the success of these initiatives, there was resistance to the use of these tools. The new model represented a significant change from HH&P's previous way of doing business, and required a similar shift in the way managers and problem owners approached their work. HH&P's workforce was accustomed to structured work processes and project management requirements, with recognition of individuals and teams based upon the outcomes of established problem-solving mechanisms and peer-reviewed publications. Resistance also arose from the shift required in individuals' understandings of their roles, from being primarily problem solvers to also being solution seekers (Lifshitz-Assaf 2014).
The leadership team undertook many communication efforts prior to the initial pilots to increase awareness of the benefits of the new approaches, including electronic newsletters, an interactive workshop for HH&P managers, and an Innovation Lecture Series that brought in speakers to discuss how various collaborative innovation methods were employed in other organizations. Despite these efforts, resistance persisted.
As a result, when the open innovation success stories were presented to the HH&P leadership team in
The Solution Management Guide
Directorate employees felt they needed assistance to know when open innovation tools were a good fit for a particular problem and when more traditional methods offered a better approach. To address these needs and to support the emergence of a culture more open to novel problem-solving mechanisms, HH&P created a knowledge management and decision analysis tool. The tool was designed to educate employees about innovative problem-solving mechanisms and assist them in selecting a project management approach given the specific resources, needs, and constraints of the project.
This tool, called the Solution Mechanism Guide (SMG), is a web-based, interactive guide aimed at teaching the features and benefits of all of HH&P's problem-solving tools, including the crowdsourcing platforms and other open innovation methods. The SMG consolidates information about traditional and innovative problem-solving methods and presents it via a unique user experience, empowering managers and problem solvers to make the best decision about which tools best meet their needs. By integrating the presentation of new and innovative methods with discussion of more accepted problem-solving tools, the SMG helps managers see how open and collaborative approaches may help them more effectively address human health and performance risks. Because it integrates open innovation tools seamlessly into the array of resources managers consider when designing an approach to a technology challenge, the SMG is a key factor in driving the culture change needed to make these methodologies part of day-to-day project management.
The alpha version of SMG was introduced to the directorate in a series of evaluation tests using focus groups in the summer and fall of 2013. Results of evaluation studies indicated that focus group users liked the overall look and feel of the tool (91 percent), found the tool easy to navigate and use (66 percent), felt that a lot of the information was new to them (78 percent), felt that the tool provided helpful information (75 percent), and thought that they would likely use this tool on the job (62 percent) (Keeton, Richard, and Davis 2014). Given this positive feedback, HH&P utilized a series of competitions on the topcoder platform to develop the beta version of SMG. A series of 23 challenges attracted a total of 99 submissions, with over
The beta version, completed in
Rethinking Reward Systems
From 2009 to 2012, HH&P was part of an in-depth longitudinal field study of HH&P's experimentation with open innovation (Lifshitz-Assaf 2014). One finding concerned the disproportionate media attention focused on external challenge winners, attention internal challenge participants did not receive. (For example, the winner of the data-driven forecast of solar events challenge was widely recognized in the media.)
To address this problem, the HH&P directorate looked for ways to reward both challenge owners-those who posted challenges on external open innovation platforms-and participants. Senior management began to conduct internal award ceremonies to recognize successful challenge owners, who were presented with certificates of accomplishment.
Rewarding [email protected] contributors required a different approach. To establish a formal award system, HH&P turned to the platform's users, leveraging the platform itself. In an initial challenge, [email protected] participants were asked to submit their ideas for nonmonetary awards that would be meaningful to them; submissions were evaluated in a second challenge on the platform in which participants voted for their favorite awards. Those awards with the highest votes were then incorporated into a formalized reward system. Under this new reward system, winners have been recognized with options such as "lunch with the center director" or experiencing a "cool
Taken together, the SMG and [email protected] have enabled HH&P personnel to integrate the new approach into their own work. The SMG will give users the information they need to assess the various problem-solving mechanisms available and select the one that best suits the needs of the specific project or technology. In the process, it will present challenge competitions and technology solution sourcing as two tools among the many managers and problem solvers might use, integrating open innovation into the fabric of daily practice-and, thus, into the organizational culture. SMG is also driving a change in HH&P's language around problem-solving approaches and open innovation, emphasizing that open innovation and crowdsourcing are just another "tool in the toolkit" of managers and problem solvers.
Growing use of [email protected] enables employees to solicit solutions and drive connection and collaboration across the agency. This resource builds a strong network of subject matter experts across a highly effective organization. The revised reward system offers meaningful incentives to participation, keeping interest and engagement high and making the collaborative platform an ongoing element in HH&P's culture change.
Since 2007, HH&P has pursued a vigorous implementation of its collaboration strategy, with significant benefits. The results of its early experiments with open innovation tools have been widely recognized, and a new
In formulating the 2007 strategy, the directorate's leadership correctly anticipated great change and charted an effective course of action to address emerging challenges. Over time, HH&P continued to evolve its approach to address cultural barriers to change, creating the SMG to improve decision making and project management and developing reward systems to recognize those who embraced the new approach. HH&P now regularly assesses the portfolio of work and utilizes the SMG to make the deployment of novel problemsolving tools routine. The directorate is now developing comparative metrics to document the value of these tools.
Finally, HH&P's work to incorporate open innovation has intersected with governmentwide initiatives in open innovation. HH&P's open innovation initiative was launched at the time the
Views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not express the official views of
This new strategy required HH&P to transform itself from an organization that relied on traditional problemsolving tools to one that embraces open innovation tools.
Even those who embraced the possibilities of the new tools wished for more knowledge of the tools and a structured process to help them understand how to use them.
Taken together, the SMG and
1 The directorate also established a virtual center, the
2 For more information, visit http://www.nasa.gov/coeci/ntl/.
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