Innovation, crowdsourcing and sustainability

Some time ago, I read the book “Where good ideas come from. The natural history of innovation” from the American writer Steven Johnson. The main theme of this book is to explore how ideas emerge. It’s really interesting and I spent a good time reading it. Johnson has the ability to integrate a lot of information and different knowledge and link them in an admirable way. He exposes us that there is a number of common patterns that appear in the appellant environments where good ideas often arise. One of the patterns is the one called serendipity. In this chapter, the writer presents the example of Nike and the GreenXchange project, working through a platform where companies share own patents on materials and technologies that respect the environment.

crowdsourcing-cartoon-300x216That could be a good example of earlier projects before crowdsourcing, the topic we discussed in class the other day.  If someone doesn’t know what this means is basically “an online, distributed problem-solving and production model that has emerged in recent years” (Brabham, D.)

Clasically, problems are broadcasted in the form of an open call for solutions. Users (the crowd) submit solutions which are then owned by the entity which broadcast the problem. Nowadays, there are a lot of examples of crowdsourcing, in all kinds of companies. For instance, Threadless (t-shirt company), Innocentive (science), Lego Desingbyme (new Lego models) or DellIdeaStorm (computer company).

One of the articles commented in class concluded that environmental sustainability and architecture are examples that may benefit from the application of crowdsourcing. I’m totally agree. Retention of knowledge and “green” innovations does no favor to anyone, because what is more important now is to ensure a more sustainable future. So, I believe that promoting more crowdsourcing in that field is essential, as long as there are benefits to both companies and participants, “the crowd”.

One great initiative is EartHack backed by IKEA and Philips, a perfectly example of  collectiveRecycledPlanet2 problem solving to come up with new ways of using existing technolgy. This with the aim to make homes more sustainable and save million tonnes of CO2.

This is the future! Crowdsourcing can drive sustainability solutions and help “to contribute to meet our needs without compromising the future generations”… What are we waiting for? It’s hip to be green!


6 thoughts on “Innovation, crowdsourcing and sustainability

  1. Very interesting!
    I’m looking foward to reading that book (over some break, of course!!)!
    Hope HSSE has it!

    1. Thank you! So, over some break I totally recommend you to read the book, it’s interesting and very well-written (he paid me for promoting the book 😉 just kidding).

  2. Nice examples of how crowdsourcing can be used to benefit everyone – even though… IKEA and Phillips? I’m a bit skeptical about who will benefit… but hey, if it’s for a good cause… 🙂

    1. Well, maybe you’re right… but Ikea, for e.g., it’s a large and famous company so her voice can reach a lot of people!

  3. This is the first time I hear about the Greenxchange website. I like their philosophy but I am not sure if I believe the companies are really practicing crowdsourcing. Patents are legal instruments intended to encourage innovation, but patents are basically used to secure exclusive rights and to assure higher profitability in the market. I really wish this initiative will work, but as I said, I have some doubts about companies like Nike sharing their beloved trade secrets with others.

    1. Yes, I know. Greenxchange initiative it’s not really “crowdsourcing”, I was just saying that it was an example of earlier projects who might had led to crowdsourcing’s project ideas. And yes I agree with you about the patent’s rights, it’s a controversial issue.

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