Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Live from Front End of Innovation 2012: Alfred Malouf and Diane Powell on Innovations for a Sustainable Future

"If you look in the obvious place, you are not going to find an innovative solution." -- Alfred Malouf

"Innovators: People with disruptive world-class ideas, technologies, or programs that show great promise in making tangible and impactful progress for society in...key...areas." -- Diane Powell, NASA

The power of Grand Challenges, is that they involve outreach to both the technical community (e.g., research centers, suppliers) and the general public (e.g., government, NGOs) so as to create synergy between their diverse perspectives.

These are the elements of a successful Grand Challenge:

  • Dual outreach -- strong marketing campaign to general public, targeted technical campaign
  • Credible, clearly define technology objectives
  • Incentives 
  • Judging panel and process -- this is critical, because the criteria need to be understandable to all
Here is an overview of the process of a Grand Challenge, with some of the key steps articulated (each phase is roughly 3 months):

Phase 1: Program Design
  • Select Challenge topic
  • Articulate aspirational and need statements -- need to be clear, concise, and compelling
  • Create search strategy -- cast a broad net
  • Develop prize strategy (includes having multiple winners and diverse incentives [money, access to resources, mentoring, etc.])
  • Define judging process (make sure that there is evidence that solutions are viable)
Phase 2: Submission Period
  • Launch grand challenge
  • Execute search and broad casting
  • Manage submissions
  • Implement communications plan
  • Manage support and communications
  • Reporting and metrics
Phase 3: Close and Assess
  • Implement review process (which should affirm credibility and fairness)
Phase 4: Award Prizes

Outcomes of a Grand Challenge
  • Expertise from adjacent, and non-obvious fields
  • Motivation urgent call to action, achievable objectives, and prizes
Overall, a Grand Challenge is a great way to bring disruptive, world-class innovation that can make an important and significant impact on society.  But, it can also be scaled down to the needs of almost any group or organization.

Orin C. Davis is the first person to earn a doctorate in positive psychology.  His research focuses on flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring, and it spans both the workplace and daily life.  He is the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory and a freelance consultant who helps companies maximize their human capital and become better places to work.

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