5 min read

Solving Your Challenge With Incentive Competitions

May 2, 2014

Do you have a big problem that you’d love to solve? A problem which, if solved, would transform your business, your life, your community?

In this blog I’m going to share how I solved my own challenge, and how you can use the same concept to solve yours.

I think of problems as gold mines. The world’s biggest problems are the world’s biggest market opportunities.

Solve a big one, you can help a billion people and become a billionaire in the process.

So how do you do that?

Who do you get to help you?

Welcome to the idea of running an incentive prize competition… big or small, you can incentivize brilliant minds around the world to help you solve your challenge. And best of all, you only pay the winner.

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My Story

In 1994, I desperately wanted to get to space. The problem was, NASA was the only name in town and my chances of riding with them were one in a thousand (at 5'5" in height, I have a better chance of joining the NBA then I do being accepted as an astronaut).

After reading that Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1927 to win a $25,000 purse (the Orteig prize), I became enamored with the power of incentive prizes.

These competitions were the perfect way to excite and leverage the world’s most talented, creative people to solve YOUR challenge. That insight led me to creation of the $10M Ansari XPRIZE for spaceflight, which was offered for the first commercial, reusable 3-person spaceship.

That competition was won 10 years ago in 2004, and immediately commercialized by Richard Branson to create Virgin Galactic. Since then, the XPRIZE has launched one to two prizes per year in areas like space ($30M Google Lunar XPRIZE), Health ($10M Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE), Oceans ($2M Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE) and Learning (note: Stay tuned for the launch of a major Learning XPRIZE soon).

But over the past 10 years we’ve been barraged by people wanting to design and fund hundreds of smaller prizes for their company, community and even for orphan diseases. And while the XPRIZE isn’t designed to service such needs, the fact is that the Prize methodology works and should be used 100-fold more frequently than it is.

What’s Next: HeroX

So, to expand the use of incentive prizes, and to give people an incredibly powerful tool to solve local problems, earlier this year a new platform called HeroX was created to implement and expand on everything learned by XPRIZE and the prize community over the past few decades.

HeroX effectively allows anyone to design, fund, and run your own incentive challenge, and tap into the crowd to help you solve your problems.

And as we add 3 billion new minds, connected online over the next 6 years (between 2014 and 2020), there’s a lot more brainpower to tap into.

It was Bill Joy, the founding CTO of Sun Microsystems, who famously said: “No matter who you are, most of the smartest people in the world work for someone else.” The implications of that notion are pretty profound, especially as you looking for talent to solve your problems.

Also read: TOP 50 MOON SHOTS (2000 - 2020)

Here’s how HeroX works in 5 easy steps

  1. You identify a problem you want solved in the world (or your community);
  2. HeroX helps you create a prize-based challenge for solving that problem;
  3. HeroX aggressively promotes the challenge to draw from the largest group of potential innovators and problem-solvers. They also look for people who care about your same problem area who will help amplify the challenge to new communities;
  4. HeroX helps to design guidelines (often determined by the crowd and expert panelists) to help judge the challenge submissions that will determine who wins the prize; and,
  5. HeroX rewards the winners with a prize set by you, the challenge owner.

So why is this useful? 5 key reasons:

  1. Rather than hiring one person or team, imagine having tens or hundreds of teams working tirelessly on your problem;
  2. My data shows that teams spend 5x-10x the prize purse amount to develop the solution;
  3. You only pay for the solution to your problem, not failures;
  4. You set the deadlines. This means that you can incentivize rapid breakthroughs much more quickly than traditional mechanisms might; and,
  5. You engage communities, organizations, and people by raising awareness and by mobilizing and inspiring.

Upcoming webinar:

If you’d like to learn more about HeroX, here are a few options for you:

  • Check out the website.
  • Sign up for our a webinar that the HeroX team is doing on July 17th at 10:30am PST.
  • Also, until September 1, you can submit your own challenge idea for the Imagine X Challenge and have a chance to win $1,000 just to share a challenge you want to see solved.

I truly believe we can transform ourselves from a world where we complain about problems to a world where we solve problems. We are now more empowered than ever before to do just that. So don’t complain, solve… or, at a minimum, incentivize others to solve them by creating a HeroX Challenge.

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Peter H. Diamandis

Written by Peter H. Diamandis

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