Last Thursday morning I joined roughly 150 software geeks and city brass in the west wing of NYC’s Grand Central Terminal (aka Vanderbilt Hall) for a press conference awarding the winners of the MTA App Quest challenge, in which the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) opened their data to the private sector and tasked developers with creating apps to improve the travel experience for their 8.5 million daily riders. MTA Chairman, Joseph J. Lhota kicked off the ceremony observing that, “Competition brings out the best in people, and there’s no doubt that’s what happened in this contest.” His point was reinforced by event sponsor ChallengePost CEO, Brandon Kessler stating that, “Government can do so much more when it works with the public and makes itself a platform.” This is essentially a mantra for Government 2.0, a movement a largely championed by Tim O’Reilly (who is also credited with coining the phrase ‘Web 2.0’), based on the politically conservative yet unifying concept that government is far less adept at spurring innovation than the private sector.
While government is our usual whipping post for bureaucratic inadequacy, the benefits of incentivizing innovation from the outside can be just as easily applied to any big organization. After all, if behemoth corporations could move as quickly as lean startups, all companies featured on Tech.li would be doomed. Lean or large, sometimes we all need help.
The term ‘outsourcing’ has garnered a bad rap as singularly associated with jobs being funneled abroad rather than the broader concept of simply contracting others to do work that can’t be done as effectively in-house. Not only can harnessing the talents of outsiders be cheaper – as is too often the sole rationale for American companies shifting jobs across borders – but the results can also be produced quicker and with higher quality when done correctly. Say…by ‘crowdsourcing’ – outsourcing’s more populous cousin. Which circuitously brings me back to ChallengePost and their government platform Challenge.gov.
ChallengePost helps corporations and government agencies turn internal objectives – usually developing software apps, but sometimes simply video or idea generation – into public contests, or Challenges, where everyone involved garners outsize returns on their time and money. Challengers get a greater total value of innovation compared with RFP-based contracting due to the high volume of quality submissions from various approaches. Solvers get interesting projects for their portfolio and financial rewards (prizes) for exceptional work. Everybody gets priceless publicity for rallying together and showcasing their abilities to collectively address problems, whether for the public good or to build an ecosystem around corporate goals.
- A robust competition management platform, making participation easy, productive and fun.
- Exposure to a wide network of skilled software experts and technology enthusiasts, ensuring high quality submissions.
- Consulting and marketing services that augment or replace in-house resources and maximize competition engagement.
Sharing openly to cost effectively drive innovation where everybody involved wins…that can’t be a government project, can it?!
It is with ChallengePost, where you can also discover challenges to win prizes and acclaim, or better yet, create your own challenge enabling the public to solve a problem that’s important to you. All of us, even the big ol’ Federal Government, can thrive together approaching problems with the world as our platform.
Full Disclosure: The author, Brian Koles, is the Business Development Manager for ChallengePost,