Interesting recent article by Brian Appleyard on the option of offering significant prizes to develop highly innovative solutions to immensely challenging problems. This way of coming up with clever solutions has a very long, successful and sometimes troubled history, such as Harrison and Longitude.
This approach to innovation is relatively cheap and gives a chance for highly creative mavericks, who may be uncomfortable working in big organisations, to come up with the goods and be suitably rewarded.
The modern examples that he mentions are:
- $10 million – building a private-sector spaceship, offered by the X Prize Foundation
- $1 million – make meat in a laboratory and sell it by 2012, offered by Peta
- $40 thousand – the network challenge (to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the internet), offered by DARPA
Proactive prizes are phenomenally powerful tools. They circumvent bureaucracy, investment anxiety and, where necessary, ideology. They exploit networks, causes and frustration with existing establishments such as Nasa.
They also exploit the human will to take part, to compete and to win. They restore a sense of sweaty, balls-out, seat-of-the-pants heroism to innovation. And, with networks involved, they invite us all to play. Prizes work better than work.
Picture credit from the 2009 independent film ‘The Mother Of Invention‘.