Harnessing the Ingenuity of Crowds
How It Works:
Anyone can post a project on CrowdSolveIt.org, along with a list of unsolved issues. Users then offer suggestions from their own fields of expertise and life experiences. Each issue generates an evolving discussion thread among users, with the best suggestions rising to the top.
A Few Examples:
Google X was trying to develop balloons that would perpetually float in the stratosphere and provide internet service to the whole of the developing world. Unfortunately, the balloons kept leaking and falling back to earth. So their engineers made a list of stuff that doesn’t leak in the hopes of finding a solution. Condoms, for example. Doritos bags. Sausage casings. The Google X is extremely creative but they are only half a dozen people. Imagine if they had access to five thousand more creative minds and life experiences.
Slime-Mold Solutions: Talented and dedicated engineers spend countless hours designing railway systems to be as efficient as possible. Turns out there’s a shortcut: slime mold. Researchers from Japan and England arranged oat flakes (a favorite slime mold treat) in a pattern that mimicked the way cities were scattered around Tokyo, then set the slime mold loose. In short order the mold had constructed a network of interconnected tubes that looked almost identical to the Tokyo railway system. You probably aren’t a slime-mold expert but who’s to say you don’t have some esoteric expertise or life experience that would allow you to make an equally unexpected connection.
Banish Bots While Digitizing the World’s Old Books: Luis von Ahn was the one who realized that humans are much better at deciphering distorted text than computers are and created CAPTCHA – a simple test to prevent automated programs from registering on websites. He then realized that CAPTCHA could use snippets from old books that needed to be digitized and now over 40 million words are being transcribed daily. Full credit to Luis von Ahn for one of the most creative insights I’ve ever seen, but I bet there are quite a few librarians out there who might have come up with the same idea – if someone had just asked them.
CrowdSolveIt.org accelerates and amplifies this creative process. With hundreds or even thousands of people from all walks of life thinking about your unsolved issues, there’s a good chance that one or more of them are going to come up with a solution (or two, or ten) that you may not yet have thought of yet..
Got a minute? Solve a problem.
Or just check us out to see how creative people tackle difficult issues – it might inspire you to pursue your own world-changing ideas.
Karin Muller has spent the past twenty years traveling alone to remote cultures and conflict zone to bring home stories about people and places that few Westerner will ever see. Karin has written three highly-acclaimed books and produced international television series on the Middle East, Cuba, Vietnam, the Andes, North Africa, China, and Japan for PBS and National Geographic. She regularly lectures at major universities throughout the USA. In 2007, Karin founded Take 2, an international nonprofit that helps students to develop global citizenship and leadership skills.