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Not everyone knows that NASA has embedded crowdsourcing into their strategy and capabilities. But in fact, back in 2011 (after they ran a highly successful crowdsourcing pilot) NASA established the Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI).

Now, nine years later, CoECI works with innovators inside and outside of NASA to generate meaningful ideas and solve important problems by working with global communities in the NASA Tournament Lab and their internal workforce in their [email protected] community.

The team has sourced some really inspiring new processes and problem resolutions from within their organization. CoECI is also excellent about celebrating the solutions and their ideators after they’ve been discovered – they keep a library of interviews with challenge winners. Here are a few examples of some innovation results:

  • A new virtual reality training program to acclimate astronauts to zero gravity environments.
  • A new method for washing produce in space.
  • A new solution for automotive sensors when it comes to lunar landing (that came from a NASA intern!).

But how do they find these ideators and in their inspirations? Well, in a recent podcast interview the CoECI talked about their team, the team at NASA talked about the different aspects of their work.

They facilitate the planning and execution of challenges. This means helping challenge sponsors scope the problem appropriately, helping them post, schedule, market, and fulfill rewards throughout the challenge, and more. For example, they have a non-monetary rewards system that includes rewards like astronaut autographs or selecting an item to travel into space! They also conducted some research in cooperation with Harvard University and identified the main reason people participate in their challenge programs. The main motivator, it turns out, is to gain managerial recognition so they ensure this always happens.

They also spend a great deal of time educating NASA (and beyond) on the best practices for crowdsourcing challenges. This means sourcing business problems and the challenge sponsors who can deliver on good ideas. It also means constantly communicating with the NASA community about CoECI capabilities so that they gain participation from within NASA’s walls and they find new advocates outside as well. They send emails, do roadshow presentations, interview winners, and create tons of content in order to grow their crowd of participants.

And the last important part of their role is the measurement of these programs. In fact, as they’re recruiting challenge sponsors and ideators – they’re using the data that they track in these programs to validate their message. For example, 88% of the solutions sourced through their crowdsourcing challenges have been implemented. Additionally, total savings opportunities identified by ideas to date are around $8.7M.

To listen to the full podcast episode, visit the IdeaScale Nation episode page on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

About the author

Rob Hoehn is the co-founder and CEO of IdeaScale: the largest open innovation software platform in the world. Hoehn launched crowdsourcing software as part of the open government initiative and IdeaScale’s robust portfolio now includes many other industry notables, such as EA Sports, NBC, NASA, Xerox and many others. Prior to IdeaScale, Hoehn was Vice President of Client Services at Survey Analytics.

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