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How To Do an Innovation Challenge Not Right

 

Imagine Cup 2009 Student Competition

Imagine Cup 2009 Student Competition

Microsoft for several years has run something called the ImagineCup, which aims to engage students around the world in developing the next killer application. One of the exciting features is the annual Finals, which take place in a city around the world (this year it’ll be Cairo).

 

This year, the challenge “theme” is, “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems facing us today.” Tied to the Millennium Development Goals, the challenge invites students to submit entries in nine categories – software, embedded development, games, robotics, IT challenge, mashup, photography, film and design. First place prizes range from $25,000 to $8,000 depending on the category.

Its a lively an envigorating proposition.

Here’s what doesn’t work for me: just about every competition entry category that has legs must be built on a Microsoft product. Two specific points come to mind as lessons:

  • If you’re going to be about solving the world’s problems, the “platform” on which they are to be solved is a second order problem eg is this really marketing to students? Lesson: communicate the intent clearly.
  • If you’re inviting the very best from students in a learning process, why not draw upon their existing base of talent and expertise instead of shoehorning them into a specific tool set? Lesson: meet people where they’re at.

Aside: Imagine Cup has an interesting feature called a “Leader Board” – I am sure this is something that could be a fun tool to engage visitors and users using a combination of intelligent analytics and user feedback tools.