Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Cambrian House - Beyond IdeaWarz

One of the early criticisms of the Cambrian House IdeaWarz system is that anyone can post an idea in a few words, but how do you really sift the good ideas from the bad?
A popularily contest between ideas in the voting system, while being a loose indicator of gut reaction to an idea, is obviously full of flaws.
The idea may sound good, but how realistic is it? It is technically feasible? Is there a market? Is it actually original? Is it a shallow idea in embryo, or has the submitter put a lot of thought and research into it?
Some ideas on a napkin may sound like they've been done before. Is this a reason not to pursue it? Perhaps if something moderately successful was re-done better, it would be hugely successful? This is often the case in the real world. (Think: Google)
To achieve commercially viable projects, the idea has to go through many more trials and refinements to get it into a viable state. It's a process. Anyone who has realized an idea knows this. The ability to comment on Ideas in IdeaWarz is an informal way of challenging an idea and helping to refine it. But it's obviously not enough.

I made some suggestions to Cambrian House and hopefully they'll implement something along these lines.

After a little consideration, this is how the process could work:

Idea Submission
Putting down the essence of an idea in just a few words, along with some background on where the inspiration came from is a fine place to start. But sometime early in the submission process, the idea needs to be qualified for feasibility. I think that once an idea is submitted and passes the first gate of suitability (i.e. it's not offensive and meets the guidelines, and it's generally suitable for the CH Crowdsourcing model), it can enter IdeaWarz and get some feedback.
At the same time, Cambrian House should solicit some refinement of the idea from the submitter to enter the second gate.
(Along the lines of "Thanks for your idea. It has entered our initial feedback system IdeaWarz. We want to know more. Please log in and fill out the Self-Grading Justification Form to enter the next stage of the process.")

Self-Grading Justification
The submitter of the idea should now be asked to justify their idea by writing a concise description of the idea and self-grading it in the following areas:

  1. Suitability for Crowdsourcing on CH

  2. Originality

  3. Potential Market

  4. Commercial Viability

The self-grading process is not just intended to be a score out of 10. A paragraph or two on the fit in each of these areas is needed. For example, an idea that's not wholly original is not a bad idea for the model if a large market exists to be tapped into. And a product that's targeted at a smaller market with high saturation is often better than a mass market product that has high competition or low saturation. An acknowledgement of the potential challenges an idea may face and how this can be overcome adds strength to the idea.
Once the submitter of the idea has put a mark on their idea, it is then opened to the community to agree or disagree with the ratings, by adding their own ratings and comments. Do they think the idea is as marketable as the author does? Maybe there's an application of the idea that the author hasn't considered?
Discussing and brainstorming the idea in this way will help to mould it and may open other possible markets that were not originally conceived of.

Doing this would weed out weak and unsuitable ideas pretty quickly. The idea can stay in embryo on IdeaWarz but would never pass that stage if it cannot be solidified.
Why keep it on IdeaWarz? Why not just remove it?
Because ideas breed ideas. A weak idea can provoke a stronger more refined one. Keep the think tank full!
(I think it should generally be at the submitter's discretion to remove an idea. This is a function that is currently missing at Cambrian House.)

So now that we have an idea that has some substance, we enter stage 2: Solidification. Here we get to be more critical of an idea. Cambrian House users can now start to contribute to ideas that have been justified by their submitter. It's an open forum where others can rate the idea according to their own perspective, challenge the ratings given by the submitter and contribute suggestions. At this point we're starting to prove the idea for its potential and build support and dedciation to it. Hopefully by the end of this process we'll have a focused group of people willing to contribute to the project.

Test the Market
Now it's time to go to market trial. The first task of the focus group (or CrowdSource Project group) is to produce a marketing site to promote the idea as a product. This then is made available to be judged by Cambrian House users. What do you think of this idea? Why do you think it would succeed or fail? Would you buy this product?
If the feedback at this stage is good, we release the product to the world. If pre-orders meet an specified goal within, say, 2-4 weeks, you then have 6 weeks to build it. (Of course, if the incentive is strong from the CrowdSource Project team, they can go ahead and build it to see 'if they will come').

Final Note
For CrowdSourcing to work you need the buy-in of a group of developers who are dedicated to the success of a project. The interaction involved in the development of the idea is also going to be key in getting the commitment and motivation of a group to 'get the job done', I feel.