Doing More for Less

Wouldn’t it be incredible if you could buy a Lego version of Optimus Prime or the Batmobile? With Lego Cuusoo, you just might be able to. On April 23, 2011, Lego launched a crowdsourcing platform worldwide called Cuusoo where people post their Lego creations for everyone else to see. If it gets more than 10,000 supporters, Lego will commercialize it and the winner, in turn, will receive royalties. What Lego realized is that there is an untapped resource of very smart and creative people outside the organization who they can “crowdsource” to develop new offerings for the company faster and at less cost.

Crowdsourcing has been around for a long time but the growth of the internet as a technology platform, the spread of English as a universal language helped propel crowdsourcing forward as more and more people can exchange ideas and solutions in quick and easy ways. Nowadays, it is a routine thing to share issues on a public forum such as Facebook or Twitter and get suggestions in a matter of minutes. Companies, as well, have successfully taken advantage of the crowdsourcing buzz whether it is Netflix who handed out $1 million to improve the way it was recommending movies, or Cisco who set up the I- Prize event and awarded $250,000 to identify its next business opportunity, or Innocentive, who created a business around connecting companies to the scientific community to solve scientific problems.

IXL Center is also at the forefront in utilizing crowdsourcing with academia, corporations and non-profits through two programs it powers at the Hult International Business School – The Hult Innovation Olympics and the Hult Global Case Challenge. Both leverage the power of MBA students around the world with the first program helping companies find their next growth opportunity and the latter program helping NGOs make the world a better place.

The Hult Innovation Olympics

All companies are faced with the challenge of finding their next growth opportunity and, more often than not are struggling to know what to do next. Companies like Verizon, Johnson Controls, Philips, Levi’s, 3M, Lufthansa, Alibaba, EmiratesNBD and Brazilian companies like Natura and JBS each chose a Hult Campus in either Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai and Shanghai and each get five teams of five very diverse individuals. Hult students are on average 27 years of age and represent over 60 countries and work experience in most industries and business functions. Over a six-week period, these five teams compete with each other to come up with billion dollar growth options that are than presented in the board rooms of each company. The companies are always surprised by how much of the information that they had thought was proprietary was actually already public domain. They are also amazed at how quickly and easily students come up with solutions that the company was already talking about or developing. Finally, there is always a team that comes up with a business concept that is so new and intriguing that makes the executives look around and shake their heads in disbelief.

In six weeks, companies get five very different and powerful growth options that are crowdsourced from a diverse team of industry experienced MBA students for a fraction of the cost and time of McKinsey or BCG.

Hult Prize

“How will you turn your good intentions into real changes?” posed former US President Bill Clinton at the 2011 Hult Prize final. The answer, it turns out, is by crowdsourcing the problem to MBA student teams from schools around the world through a global business case competition. For, a non-profit organization trying to address the issue of safe water and sanitation, hundreds of teams from around the world universities including 80 of the top 100 MBA schools such as Harvard, Kellogg, Stanford, INSEAD, NUS and IMD developed business plans to solve one key question – “How do you deliver water and sanitation to 100 million people in five years?” The winning idea proposed a solution leveraging mobile phones in developing countries to implement a loyalty and incentive plan that would fund development and maintenance of a clean water Infrastructure. The winning idea from University of Cambridge along with a million dollar check from Hult International Business School was given to Jeffrey Fulgham, Chief Sustainability Officer of GE Power & Water saw the potential impact of the program saying “What a fantastic way to generate ideas and create commitment to drive implementation!”

For the 2012 event, the Hult Prize will be helping three more NGOs – Habitat for Humanity (housing), Solar Aid (energy) and One Laptop Per Child (education) increase their impact by 10x. The $1 million prize will be split among the three NGOs.


These examples provide insights on how different companies leverage crowdsourcing to solve various business and social challenges. While these examples are by no means comprehensive, we can see how companies leverage smart and creative people outside their own organization. Crowdsourcing is easier to implement, gets you results faster and cheaper and can have more impact. The questions remain – What challenges do you need help solving? Why are you not crowdsourcing? Why are you not taking advantage of external resources such as MBA programs to get intelligence, insights and ideas?

In our next article, we will define the keys to crowdsourcing innovation initiatives and how to get breakthrough results every time.