Crowdsourcing for Inventors

January 24, 2010

One of the hottest trends is crowdsourcing, which is mass collaboration to achieve business goals. Wikipedia, is often cited, as it counts on the public to gather huge amounts of information to create its online encyclopedia. Another well known example is the Apple iPhone, which invited developers to come up with applications that could then be sold to consumers (Apple now offers endless cool apps and the inventors are paid directly by the users).

Companies may even go to customers and ask for their assistance in designing commercials, new product names, or new product designs, etc. Often there is a phase of open brainstorming of ideas online, the public may be able to vote for the best submissions during this time, narrow down the finalists. Usually the winner is rewarded with money, prizes, or recognition.

The Kindle stop motion commercial with that catchy ‘Fly Me Away’ song was created in this fashion, winning $20,000 in Amazon.com gift certificates for its creators. Nice for the folks in Fortune 500 companies to be able to take advantage of crowdsourcing, but how can the independent inventor benefit from a similar open exchange of ideas?

Well, I came across an interesting site, http://www.creativitypool.com/free_ideas.php, which seems to be the answer to my question. This site is dedicated to people releasing their abandoned, or rejected, ideas to the public. The site’s rules make it very clear that those who submit the ideas online are no longer able to patent them, or benefit from them, if they should happen to go into commercial production.

The site does suggest a reward, if such a thing happens, but that it should be minor, like one copy of the produced item. The idea submitters can further suggest what this reward can be. The rewards posted have been as creative as the ideas, “Virgin Sacrifice, haha,” and “Nobel Prize for the Stupid” were a few of the tongue-in-cheek suggestions.

Now I’m not suggesting that you should post your ideas on this site, but use it, instead, as springboard for your own creative juices. I looked through some of these ideas, most of them were not at all feasible or developed enough to merit protection (a toy that walks, but no technical solution on how to make it walk), but they usually identified a need or want that could be fulfilled.

In my own personal experience of brainstorming, sometimes the wackiest idea—the instantaneous reject, can be the springboard to a successful new solution. Too often inventors work in isolation and they lack the free exchange of ideas that can be really helpful. Some of the best ideas are built on the unusable ideas of others. I was excited to find this site and share it with my clients. Who knows, maybe one of these rejected ideas, with their help, will turn into an actual new product!