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Management article
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Reference no. R0909C
Authors: Guido Jouret
Published by: Harvard Business Publishing
Published in: "Harvard Business Review", 2009
Length: 12 pages

Abstract

Cisco Systems has plenty of experience developing new technology internally; it has also proved adept at growing its product offerings through targeted acquisitions of tech start-ups. Not too long ago, the company began running an internal innovation competition, offering cash rewards for the best new product ideas. After a few years, though, Cisco sought to reach beyond its walls to see what sorts of ideas - and different perspectives - the wider world had to offer. In late 2007, it announced the I-Prize competition. The goal was to build a new billion-dollar Cisco business around the winning idea to emerge from among many outside contributions. The contest called for an idea that would align with Cisco's strategy and take advantage of its leadership position in internet technology. A total of more than 2,500 people from 104 countries registered on the I-Prize website and submitted more than 1,200 ideas. After a challenging, nearly year-long process of winnowing and evaluation, an in-house judging panel chose an idea for creating a 'smart' electricity grid - a natural fit with Cisco's competencies and long-term strategy. In this article, I-Prize impresario Jouret, Chief Technology Officer of Cisco's Emerging Technologies Group, describes the experience of dealing with the unexpected complexities - and labor-intensiveness - of crowdsourcing: 'The misconception about crowdsourcing is that merely by turning on a website and putting up a reward, in no time you'll have recipes for cold fusion by the bucket load. That's not what happens.'

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Abstract

Cisco Systems has plenty of experience developing new technology internally; it has also proved adept at growing its product offerings through targeted acquisitions of tech start-ups. Not too long ago, the company began running an internal innovation competition, offering cash rewards for the best new product ideas. After a few years, though, Cisco sought to reach beyond its walls to see what sorts of ideas - and different perspectives - the wider world had to offer. In late 2007, it announced the I-Prize competition. The goal was to build a new billion-dollar Cisco business around the winning idea to emerge from among many outside contributions. The contest called for an idea that would align with Cisco's strategy and take advantage of its leadership position in internet technology. A total of more than 2,500 people from 104 countries registered on the I-Prize website and submitted more than 1,200 ideas. After a challenging, nearly year-long process of winnowing and evaluation, an in-house judging panel chose an idea for creating a 'smart' electricity grid - a natural fit with Cisco's competencies and long-term strategy. In this article, I-Prize impresario Jouret, Chief Technology Officer of Cisco's Emerging Technologies Group, describes the experience of dealing with the unexpected complexities - and labor-intensiveness - of crowdsourcing: 'The misconception about crowdsourcing is that merely by turning on a website and putting up a reward, in no time you'll have recipes for cold fusion by the bucket load. That's not what happens.'

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