How Crowdsourcing is Helping GE Power the World

How Crowdsourcing is Helping GE Power the World
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In 2005, GE launched Ecomagination – an initiative aimed at developing new power grid technologies over the next decade. Great idea, except five years in they realized something: if they really wanted to succeed in their goal, they couldn’t do it alone.

It’s an issue many companies encounter when faced with innovation challenges – the need for crowdsourcing. GE recognized the need and took action.

They decided to hold a massive, world-wide innovation contest to collaborate with small businesses and get the best ideas straight from the brightest entrepreneurs out there. And they used Brightidea’s cloud-based social innovation software to coordinate their efforts.

Leveraging the Brightidea WebStorm as an online portal, GE contest participants could:

  • Submit ideas individually or as teams, as well as vote and collaborate on ideas
  • Submit ideas publicly or privately
  • Visualize data via integrations with Google Maps and a data visualization app
  • Connect from anywhere using the mobile iPhone app
  • Spread the word easily on social media – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube

The contest was an overwhelming success because of a few key things GE did right: committing to a culture of innovation as well as creating an innovation program to structure their efforts (the Ecomagination initiative) and using Brightidea’s innovation software to support that structure. This allowed the scale of the contest to reach such huge proportions.

And, as mentioned earlier, GE was also smart enough to look beyond their own company for ideas, using crowdsourcing to drive their innovation efforts. Here are some of the amazing results GE experienced:

  • 70,000 users across more than 150 countries
  • 3,844 ideas submitted
  • 80,000 comments logged
  • More than 120,000 votes cast
  • 12 projects received funds totaling $55 million

With so many great ideas to choose from, GE gave $100,000 each to another five promising ideas in the development phase and also promised $10 million per year to academic partnerships to support education initiatives focused on technological advancement – because 15% of challenge submissions came from students.

GE’s results make a great argument for open innovation and the impact crowdsourcing can deliver, proving that extending beyond departments and silos, even including clients and partners – or the general public, as GE did – can make a crucial difference to solving your innovation challenges.

But more than that, when you have clearly defined innovation goals, a program in place, and software to coordinate all the moving parts, you can do amazing things – like use people-powered innovation to change the way we power the world.