Ideas, Innovation, Action

Uploaded on July 2, 2007 by pictoscribe

I was just thinking I needed some inspiration to write a post and Rob Sheffield emailed to point me at WhyNot? an ideas exchange from Profs Ayres & Nalebuff of Yale. Rob and I had been chatting recently about creativity, entrepreneurship and intersections between ideas. I’ve not seen this site, though it seems similar to global:ideas:bank and a couple others.

The concept is simple enough that you apply the wisdom of the crowds to identify the best ideas. People are free to post their idea, everyone votes on them and the best float to the surface. WhyNot? seems to be suffering from lack of participants, the top rated ideas are all from 2003 vintage and have just over 100 votes each (except for the top idea that has 337 votes). With over 3,500 ideas and 5 years you’d expect a bit more activity. WhyNot? uses a very simple vote count to determine the best ideas (Support, Neutral, Oppose).

The global:ideas:bank has a few more ideas (just over 6,000) and a different rating system based on % for Feasibility, Originality & Humour. The drawback here is that a small number of high rating gets you to the top. There doesn’t appear to be any weighting for a balanced opinion.

Of course Digg has been surfing the wisdom of the crowds for some time. Google also uses a variation on this to track site traffic and links and back-links to work out which are the best sites (or solutions) to your problem (or search query). There’s a whole industry in getting your product announcement to the top of Digg and your site to the top of Google (I just did a search for Angel Networks and Oprah has the top two spots on Google).

Digg and Google are successful (in small part at least) because there is an instant path to action. You find something at the top of the list that addresses your need and you click the link to go to the site. Alternatively, if you have a problem looking for a solution (or a site looking for ad traffic) then Digg and Google also work quite well for you. The challenge with many of the other idea exchange formats is that there’s no champion or pathway to change. So you vote an idea as being great, so what, does anything happen?

That’s the great benefit of purposeful network events like BEN, OpenCoffee (disclosure: I run OpenCoffee Bristol) and SeedCamp. They’re great melting pots for ideas because they go out of their way to bring diverse groups together. They also do this with a clear objective in mind; learn something new that will make you and your business more enterprising, find people in your city/region to help grow your business, hook up with investors and springboard your start-up.

They also give people the time and space to figure out who they can work with before disclosing the golden nugget idea. They also have the wider network to help bring the idea to some degree of realisation.

So how do you get your ideas to become reality? If it’s your idea, how do you find your partners and collaborators? If you’re into making things happen, how do you find cool ideas to work on?