Where Ideas Come From

Image Is the property of Soda-Head“No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else.” Bill Joy, Cofounder Sun Microsystems

The Concept of Open Innovtion is not new. The famous Duomo of Florence, one of the engineering wonders of the world, was a result of a contest. And, it took 140 years to complete the uncompromising design of the dome itself, until Brunelleschi came up with the solution to the problem… finding it in the Pantheon of Rome, constructed a thousand years before!

Perhaps the world had to wait for Brunelleschi’s genius to arrive. But consider, if they had the means to tap into the pool of knowledge of thousands or millions of architects, builders, artists or even passers-by, as we can today, would they have completed the project sooner?

Every generation is equally perplexed by the paradox of the amount of knowledge accumulated by the humanity at each stage, and the inability to easily find solutions to the most pressing problems. Today, more than in any other era of human history, we need to tap into the vast and dispersed sources of knowledge to stay afloat, let alone to get ahead.

Because there is always a lot of confusion about ‘what is innovation’, here is a great definition that can help you to perhaps put the case for innovation in your organisation, or at least get people on the same page [source: Fourleaf.com.au]:

“Innovation is the conversion of creative ideas into valuable or profitable solution”

So, where do great, creative solutions come from?

Today, great ideas can come from virtually anywhere. A company called Chaodix, who call themselves ‘crowdsourcing experts’, have  compiled a fairly comprehensive list of ‘Crowds For Hire: niche crowds ready to contribute‘ to your search for solutions. For your convenience listed below are all the categories of open sources of ideas compiled by Chaodix.

This list is a great start to look for breakthrough ideas or to supplement the quantity of ideas that you are able to generate internally. ONE THING Open Innovation and this fantastic list IS NOT, is a replacement of your Vision, your strategic direction or your own process for pushing ideas further down the path to execution. In other words, the strategic leadership, the innovation culture and the integration of innovation with company’s operations, must preceed and be in place before you go inviting more ideas.

Open-sourcing or outsourcing ideas is identical to outsourcing any other business resource. Whether it is technology, advertising, research or logistics that you think you need, first you must have a clear objective of what you want to achieve and how it will create value: a pipeline, or steady flow for your organisation.

99designs.com, the world’s largest online marketplace for crowdsourced graphic design services (speaking at the next InnoFuture RIOT), is one of Australia’s greatest business and open innovation success stories, having received $35m in investment capital a few months ago. Like every leader it has attracted praise and awards, mixed with cutting and bitter criticism from the very community it set out to support. Bulk of the ctiticism is directed at the fact that under the platform’s central concept, the ‘design contest‘, where, the critics point out,  the winner takes all and everybody else loses, including the Client, because ‘there is no way the contesting designers can understand the brand and business needs’ of the Client.

This is of course true. The client will only get what they have asked for in the brief. If they want better results, they will need to consider and convey their Vision and objectives better in the brief. This differs in no way from the traditional briefing process: be it design, recruitment or any other outsourcing. The onus is ALWAYS on you, the leader or the implementer of the business objectives, to explain these objectives, to describe the problem.

So, where do ideas come from? They start and end with your Vision – clearly communicated and and harnessed in a process. From there, you can open any number of doors that lead to great ideas.

General Idea Generation & Solving

Science & Research

  • Innocentive – crowdsourcing scientific solutions to corporate problems
  • Science Commons – generic license agreements
  • TekScout – crowdsourcing R&D solutions
  • YourEncore – crowd of retired veteran scientists and engineers

Freelance work

  • elance – freelance marketplace
  • Guru – freelance community
  • odesk – global marketplace for remote work



  • Ninesigma – technology problem solving
  • TopCoder – programming competitions
  • Yet2.com – crowdsourcing technology solutions to problems

Product Design

  • CrowdSpirit – crowdsourcing the design of innovative products

Creative/Graphic Design

Entrepreneurs & Inventors

  • IdeaBlob – monthly contest for entrepreneurial ideas
  • Incuby – online community for inventors

Consumer Ideas & Feedback

Health & Medical

Enterprise Crowdsourcing/Open Innovation Sites

Crowdsourcing Contests

Crowdsourcing-at-their-core Companies

Consumer/Customer Input

Clothing, Gifts & Other Products



Go ahead. Enrich your creative inputs.

InnoFuture exists to help businesses deepen their innovation capacity and to inspire them to adopt innovation as a way-of-life by connecting them with curated innovation knowledge, tools and resources to create sparks of greatness. Our uniquely advantage is that in the ever changing and evolving market of business innovation we remain unbiased to specific models and tools, while continually exploring new and emerging concepts, tools and expertise.  | Contact us |