In his recent blog post from Davos, Nandan Nilekani stated, “Clean energy presents a big opportunity – you may even call it a profitable opportunity,” and that solving the issues will require public-private partnership. He also highlighted that many of these issues are interrelated, so we have to think about them from multiple angles (such as biofuel demand’s impact on food prices). And Kris Gopalakrishnan shared his thoughts on whether Web 2.0 technologies have made innovation democratic, blurring company hierarchies and boundaries.
Putting these thoughts together, what emerges is a case for using collaborative innovation for solving some of the biggest issues facing humanity – issues such as climate change, food security, basic health and education.
As Kris pointed out, the advent of the Web 2.0 technologies is changing how we work and collaborate. And as we master these collaborative technologies, it will be only natural, and expected, that we use them to help solve our biggest issues.
As we design these collaborative mechanisms, we should keep three points in mind:
- The power of collaborative mechanisms is in their openness. Therefore, it is important to design the collaboration mechanisms to enable experts from different institutions, different countries, and increasingly, different fields of expertise, to come together and contribute. The World Economic Forum’s WELCOM network is an effort in this direction, though currently with members mostly from business and political leadership.
- For these mechanisms to generate useful output, it is important to guide them by making the ‘problem statements’ as clear and specific as possible. A good example of this is Google Foundation’s stated goal to make renewable energy cheaper than coal within a decade.
- Just like any marketplace, open collaborative communities require ground rules. We must come up with new frameworks for building and rewarding IP developed through such collaborative networks. Otherwise, despite our best efforts we will fail to attract the best and brightest to share their thoughts/IP and collaborate in these communities.
Interestingly, there is a debate going on in scientific circles on exactly this issue. For starters, see, Science 2.0: Great New Tool or Great Risk?