Some design thoughts behind OpenIDEO

Today sees the launch of OpenIDEO – a genuinely innovative web platform and I’m very proud to have been a part of its development. OpenIDEO activates the global community of creative people to solve some of the world’s tough challenges. Each challenge is an opportunity to go on a journey through the design process, focusing on inspiration, ideas, collaboration and critique. The output of this is a collection of tangible ideas created by everyone, for the world.

The OpenIDEO challenge journey

We started out with lofty goals about the power of open sourcing the design process. This last year has seen the evolution of these goals into designs and pixels, a web platform that encapsulates our beliefs and hopefully will engage the community in something powerful.

We wanted to tackle the world’s tough challenges.

We wanted to ask questions that were big, impactful and for social good. Questions like ‘How might we increase the availability of affordable learning tools & services for students in the developing world?’ The answers to these questions are open. It could be a website, a brand, a service, a new business, a gadget, the possibilities are endless.With the questions so broad, the journey had to start off broad too. We begin the challenge by asking the community  to upload inspirations. These inspirations open up the space for potential solutions and focus them by revealing the bigger themes around the challenge.

For example, our Jamie Oliver challenge around making kids more aware of fresh food could result in themes around turning healthy eating into a game, or redesigning packaging to recognise fresh ingredients. This challenge has already generated fantastic inspirations from around the world, and common themes are starting to emerge. Instead of going straight to the ideas, these inspirations fuel our creative juices to get to even better things. Inspirations are an easy way for a diverse community to all join in. Which leads me to the next belief…

We wanted to engage creative people with diverse skill sets and abilities.

It takes people from many different backgrounds to answer tough questions. At IDEO, we work with designers with many life experiences and expertise, from child psychologists to ex-Circus performers. These diverse points of view all feed into the creative process to create new solutions. It was important to extend this idea of multidisciplinary thinking into OpenIDEO.In order to create and maintain a diverse community we had to ensure that everyone could participate in the design process and they had equal ownership over the results. Each phase in the OpenIDEO challenge journey allows people with different skill sets to participate.The inspiration phase empowers those inspirationally minded, those people who are always making connections or citing a great website they just saw. In the concepting phase, we ask people to submit ideas. These could be sketches, stories, brands, websites or gadgets. The top ideas are then taken through to an evaluation phase, where we ask people to give constructive critique. And of course, everyone should applaud the submissions and vote for the best ideas.We wanted to reward people no matter how they chose to participate. So we created the Design Quotient, a points system that would reward you depending on how you participated in the site and over time would reveal your DNA as a designer.

We wanted to encourage collaboration and building on the ideas of others.

In the true spirit of open source, we believe that ideas are a collective effort of the community. Ideas get stronger as more people build them up. We wanted to encourage collaborative behaviour by allowing contributors to easily ‘build’ on ideas. When you upload your ideas you can link it to existing ideas through the ‘Build on this’ feature. These builds allow the community to see a network of ideas all connected to each other and how they finally contributed to the winning ideas.

Based on these strong beliefs we crafted a set of unique features for the OpenIDEO platform and we will continue to iterate on them over time. We have lots of things in store for the platform and I can’t wait for the community to sink their teeth in and engage with all the tools we’ve built!

Come join us and take the journey. Participate and reveal your strengths as a creative person, whether as an Inspirer, Concepter, Evaluator or Collaborator!

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