At a Career Crossroad? Be a Solution Solver 

By MBO Partners | February 24, 2023

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Key Points

Immersing yourself in the world of open innovation can lead to new opportunities and big rewards.

Becoming an open innovation “solver”—someone who works on projects presented by companies looking for innovative solutions—offers great benefits. 

Some solvers have been so successful, they are pursuing open innovation as a full-time job.

Volatility has become the norm in global markets and economies. In the U.S., the Federal Reserve is addressing inflation for the first time in over 20 years. The pandemic, war, and supply chain issues are some of the other factors keeping things in flux. In the workplace, companies and workers are responding in their own ways—the former with layoffs, the latter with steps toward more control over career direction. 

As corporate layoffs extend beyond the tech sector and the Great Realization continues to increase the number of independent professionals in the marketplace, many people seek the best next step in their careers.   Whether that step is a new job or a new revenue stream for an independent business, open innovation can point in the right direction. Actively participating in open innovation projects is a great way to keep yourself sharp, find new opportunities, and earn money along the way. 

Benefits of Solution Solving 

Becoming an open innovation “solver”—someone who works on projects presented by companies looking for innovative solutions—offers great benefits.  For example: 

  • Leverage your current knowledge and expertise 
  • Develop new skills and knowledge 
  • Keep your mind nimble as you come up with solutions 
  • Network with other innovative thinkers 
  • Open up opportunities to gain new clients or a new employer

And earn income. Some solvers have been so successful, they are pursuing open innovation as a full-time job by simultaneously participating in open innovation challenges across many different platforms. 

The Way It Works 

Generally, open innovation platforms use the Internet to connect solution seekers with problem solvers. Companies post projects that address their needs, and solvers submit responses or proposals for solutions. For a given project, top solutions are selected by the posting company and monetary prizes are awarded. 

MindSumo works with various organizations, including over 100 Fortune 500 enterprises. The platform supports the creation of business challenges and allows solvers to submit solutions based on market research, ideation projects, product development, and rollout plans. Examples of past projects (with associated monetary awards) include: 

  • Fortune 500 financial institution – How do you know who to trust for home-buying advice? 
  • Fortune 500 consulting firm – What’s your breakthrough idea for blockchain technology? 
  • Fortune 500 CPG Company – What’s your idea for keeping clothes “like new” wear after wear? 
  • Adidas – What should co-creation look like for our next-generation consumers?  
  • GEICO – How would you promote renters’ insurance to Millennials? 
  • Walmart – Help improve our online purchase/in-store pickup experience 

How to Start Solving 

To make the most of your participation in open innovation, some research is needed upfront. Different platforms have different target audiences. For example, some focus on startups, some focus on sustainable solutions, and some center on specific functions like marketing. Others like MindSumo include multiple business sectors and project types. 

Research innovation platforms, check out the types of projects they list and select one or more that fit your skills, expertise, and professional growth goals. Team up with other solvers and create solutions to address the project needs.  Finally, submit your proposal according to the project specifications.  

Whether you are a job seeker or a growth-minded independent professional, immersing yourself in the world of open innovation can lead to new opportunities and big rewards. You can also position yourself solidly in the new world of collaboration and ideation. 

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