The Hult Innovation Olympics: How Verizon, Natura, and others are Tapping Student Teams to Innovate

by Ronald Jonash

The Hult Innovation Olympics: How Verizon, Natura, and others are Tapping Student Teams to Innovatesponsored by IXL Center

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. In 2011, Lego launched a crowdsourcing platform worldwide called Cuusoo, where people post their Lego creations for everyone else to see. If the creation 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 and the spread of English as a universal language helped propel crowdsourcing forward as more and more people can exchange ideas and solutions quickly and easily. Nowadays, it’s routine 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 the Clinton Global Initiative and Hult International Business School who set up an annual $1M Hult Prize for social enterprise solutions to different social issues, or even Cisco who set up the IPrize event and awarded $250,000 to identify its next business opportunity.

A particular interesting dimension of crowdsourcing that has emerged over the past few years combines the insight of MBA/MIB (Masters in International Business) students from around the world with cutting edge innovation and idea sourcing tools to provide sponsoring organization with new options for growth and competitive advantage. The insights and perspectives come from competing teams of international business students located at seven global campuses of Hult International Business School (now the largest business school in the world with campuses in Boston, New York, San Francisco, London, Dubai, Shanghai and Sao Paulo) while the innovation and idea sourcing tools come through the Center for Innovation Excellence (IXL a global center who manages the global program for Hult and aligned with the Global Innovation Management Institute – GIMI).

These Hult/IXL programs, called the “Hult Innovation Olympics” and “Competing for the Future” take place over a six week period at each of the campuses and are designed to be very low cost and low burden for the outside sponsors. Each sponsor gets 5-6 diverse teams of 5-6 MBA/MIB students who then compete as part of their capstone action learning program to create the best growth options and competitive solutions that address the specific challenge statement issued by their sponsor.

The unique design of the intensive competitive program combined with the training and software provided to the teams and sponsors by IXL to support proven idea sourcing and innovation tools, assures that this crowdsourcing program generates not only exciting ideas but also compelling business cases and value propositions for the sponsors.

Over the past few years, leading companies like Verizon, Johnson Controls, Philips, Iron Mountain, Xerox, Siemens, Alibaba, Emirates NBD and Natura have sponsored Hult/IXL competitions that have led to the accelerated development of new business initiatives. These options for growth and competitive advantages are presented during three successive presentations over the six week period of each competition and each year, the sponsors have been amazed on how quickly and easily students come up with entirely new approaches or new variations on initiatives that the company was already worked.

The Hult Innovation Olympics: How Verizon, Natura, and others are Tapping Student Teams to Innovate

The Hult Innovation Olympics is a new, yet proven, example of how a wide range of companies tap into diverse student teams to uncover growth opportunities that solve their specific business challenges. In fact, this type of organized crowdsourcing allows Corporate participatns to get results faster and cheaper and with little burden on them.

In our upcoming Webinar (October 16th, 4pm EST), we will share our lessons learned as well as real world experiences from previous sponsors that have participated in prior Innovation Olympics.  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? Please sign up here to learn more.

image credits: hult.edu; ixl-center.com

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The Hult Innovation Olympics: How Verizon, Natura, and others are Tapping Student Teams to InnovateRonald Jonash is Professor of Strategy and Innovation, Hult International Business School, and Senior Partner the Center for Innovation, Excellence and Leadership (IXL Center).

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