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Here’s What NASA Teaches Us About Innovation

NASA recognizes the power of this innovative vehicle, which all entrepreneurs should take note of.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Would a healthcare innovator or entrepreneur consider using crowdsourcing platforms for their endeavors? Maybe for graphic or website design, copywriting, or video content. But surely not as a viable method of product development, right? 

In fact, it depends on the person and their knowledge of what crowdsourcing really is — and what it’s capable of. And this knowledge might be less common than you’d imagine. 

When you mention crowdsourcing, most people probably think of Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or GoFundMe. Let’s look at Google’s definition, though: 

Crowdsourcingnoun — the practice of obtaining information or input into a task or project by enlisting the services of a large number of people, either paid or unpaid, typically via the Internet. 

This goes well beyond the services found at sites like Kickstarter, which deal almost exclusively with crowdfunding. For a great example of the broader phenomenon of crowdsourcing, you can check out Workhoppers, Upwork, or Freelancer. If you’re unfamiliar with platforms or methods like these, you may question their legitimacy. But that doubt is unwarranted. Case in point: NASA itself is one of Freelancer.com’s most esteemed customers. 

How crowdsourcing works 

On Freelancer, contests serve as one of the main methods of crowdsourcing. Contests are essentially competitions (job postings or requests) to which the platform’s user base submits unlimited “entries.” By using the contest format, the buyer can easily “fish” for the best solution to their specific problem, as well as identify qualified subcontractors for future work. 

The format heavily favors the person or organization on the buyer’s side over the freelancer, as it involves the latter working on speculation with an overall slim chance of winning the contest. For the buyer, however, it’s a dream scenario, where even a tiny investment, or micropurchase, can generate dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of subcontractor leads and product offerings from which to select. 

NASA apparently goes along with the crowd

In 2015, NASA’s Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI) experimented with Freelancer.com, organizing over 35 additional contests with “rewards” that were as little as $50 in some cases. 

It was an overwhelming success. In a subsequent white paper, CoECI reported that by using the contest method through Freelancer, NASA saved over $322,000 (as compared to how much it would take to pay internal employees for the same tasks). In addition, turnaround times were faster, and 97 percent of the contests led to results that NASA said would definitely be implemented (most of them have since been put into use already). 

Adoption within healthcare

Medicine is currently wide open for disruption. As a field, it’s ripe for innovation in all kinds of ways, and digital platforms are playing a big part. When innovators and entrepreneurs have ideas for new and creative medical solutions, crowdsourcing is one place they can turn for expert freelance work that is fast, diverse, and affordable. 

Whether it’s drawing up a quality floor plan for an assisted living facility; designing the software for a cloud-based healthcare app, or engineering a new medical device component, the opportunities crowdsourcing offers are practically endless. Hopefully, more and more innovators take advantage of this format while it so heavily favors their interests, and the rest of us can reap the benefit from the improvements to healthcare that is sure to come as a result. 

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