Design Indaba 09 || Day 2 || Innocentive

The great thing about the Desing Indaba is the spread of ideas one is exposed to.  From the refined balance of Commonwealth, we moved on to the enthusiastism of  Dwain Spradlin of Innocentive.


In a nutshell, Innocentive is an attempt to use the internet to harness humanities ability to problem solve. To quote from their site:

“We believe in the power of open innovation, bringing together creative minds to create breakthrough solutions that touch every human life”

Dwain Spradlin spelt out how new technologies such as the internet have made instant communication possible in much of the world.  “The world has its own voice, and the individual has their own voice”.


This bringing together of the collective humanity, and individuals make it possible for us to work together in ways we never did before.  The journey from idea to manufactured reality has never been so fast. Innocentive takes advantage of this phenomenon by using a website to “connect brilliant people with problems that matter”.

The website becomes the place where individuals or organisations  with problems (the “seekers” ) can connect with the “solvers”.”Solvers” are individuals who sign up at the Innocentive web site to participate in solving problems.  Apparently these are often highly qualified individuals, and they come from all over the world.

It is interesting that while there is always a financial incentive to solve the problem, according to Dwain Spradlin,  the “solvers” are not primarily motivated by the prize.  While the prize is important and certainly an incentive, the main motivator is the wish “to work on projects that matter”.

Here are some screenshots from the Innocentive site, showing some seekers posting challenges.  First, from the page on Clean Tech and Renewable Energy


Some more, this time from the page onFood Science:


Dwain Spradlin was particularly keen to point out the nature of the innovation that happens because of Innocentive:

“Most innovation happen on the boundaries.  It happens where you dont expect it.  Many breakthrough solutions come from other fields”

An example of this was a solution to the Exxon Valdez oil spill.   For many years it has been impossible to recover the oil from that disastrous accident because the low water temperature make the oil too thick to be pumped.  This was solved by a John Davis, a construction engineer using off the shelf construction equipment.

The idea being – could it be possible to treat the cold oil in the same way one does liquid cement, and vibrate it into a more fluid state?


See video of oil cleanup solver

Dwain Spradlin showed us many other examples of the power of “crowd sourcing” and evidence of the goodwill of people to deal with the problems we face.

He left us with these thoughts:

“Ask for help, everything changes, and thank everybody”

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