The Origins of WikiIdea

WikiIdea launched in 2014, but the idea for a website where people share and develop ideas began forming in Glen Homan's mind several years earlier. Glen observed that useful, innovative ideas occur to many people, but often nothing comes of these ideas. The ideas languish until someone else rediscovers and implements them.

Glen believed that the Internet could provide a powerful platform to share and develop ideas that might otherwise be lost. With the right execution, a virtual social community of innovators dedicated to accelerating the implementation useful ideas could have a profound impact.

To realize this goal, Glen partnered with Rasheq Rahman, a fellow entrepreneur, who brought expertise in social media, design and software development to the venture. Rasheq built the beta version of the WikiIdea website and helped to develop the strategy that took WikiIdea from concept to reality.

WikiIdea explained

WikiIdea is a forum and community.

WikiIdea is a forum where people share, find and develop innovative ideas — with the goal of accelerating the implementation of those ideas.

WikiIdea is a community composed of individuals who care about innovative ideas and want to help make them into real products, services and social innovations.

WikiIdea takes into account how ideas occur to people. Ideas rarely pop into people's heads fully formed, ready to be implemented. Ideas often begin with the identification of a problem or opportunity, perhaps along with a partly developed notion of how to solve the problem or exploit the opportunity.

Because ideas occur to people in various forms, people can post ideas at any stage of development.

WikiIdea also takes into account that people have different plans regarding the implementation of their ideas. Persons posting ideas can indicate whether they plan to implement their ideas or just wish to share them, so that others can implement them. Idea posters who plan to implement their ideas can further indicate if they are seeking partners.

Idea posters get feedback and advice though posted comments.

Through comments and by browsing WikiIdea, idea posters may learn about other, related ideas.

WikiIdea members can contact idea originators via email, and initiate a direct dialogue.

Why submit an idea that you don't plan to implement?

Several factors motivate people to post ideas that they don't wish to implement themselves. Key motivators are:

  • The possibility that someone else will discover the idea and make it a reality
  • The validation provided by receiving feedback on the idea
  • Altruism: the desire to improve the world and the products and services within it
  • The chance to be recognized for conceiving a good idea

Lots of ideas occur to people, but people often don’t have the time, resources and/or motivation to develop and implement their ideas themselves.

WikiIdea believes it can have significant impact by providing a platform where people can post useful ideas that would otherwise stay locked in their heads. Other people can discover, develop and implement these ideas. Idea originators can have the satisfaction of sharing their ideas with a community of innovators who can make promising ideas into realities.

Why submit ideas you plan to implement, especially ideas with commercial potential?

To answer this question, it is helpful to examine the relationship between the type of idea and the concerns that the idea originator may have about someone "stealing" the idea.

Originators of nonprofit-sector ideas, government-sector ideas and commercial ideas that the originators do not plan to implement are generally not concerned about someone else usurping their ideas. Indeed, they may hope that others do discover and implement their ideas.

Originators of these types of ideas post them to get feedback and advice, and to possibly find partners. They may wish to publicize their ideas.

Originators of commercial ideas that the originators do plan to implement may have concerns that someone else will "steal" their ideas. This possibility may be a risk for some ideas, and idea originators are encouraged to consider this risk before posting their ideas.

However, many commercial ideas could benefit from exposure through WikiIdea. Commercial-idea originators can weigh the risk of someone else developing their ideas against the benefits of feedback, advice and publicity—and the possibility of finding partners.

Originators of commercial ideas that have patent protection have less or no risk of someone copying their ideas, of course.

Many ideas, including those without intellectual-property protection, can benefit from development in a public forum.

WikiIdea's primary goal is to accelerate the implementation of innovative ideas

WikiIdea aims to provide a forum that is highly effective in creating awareness of innovative ideas and fostering discussion of those ideas. Simply creating awareness and fostering discussion will tend to lead to the implementation of those ideas.

WikiIdea, however, does more to accelerate the implementation of useful ideas than generate awareness and discussion. WikiIdea has special features that accelerate the implementation of ideas. Many of these features differentiate WikiIdea from other idea websites:

  • WikiIdea is a forum for virtually any type of idea that provides economic benefits and/or social value. The idea can pertain to the business, nonprofit or government sectors. This broad mandate encourages people to post ideas, as they don't have to find specialized portals that fit their ideas; and if more ideas are posted, more ideas will be implemented.
  • Moderators screen ideas to identify ideas that are appropriate for WikiIdea, and discourage ideas that are trivial or would have minimal impact as proposed. A review of other idea websites shows that allowing any idea to be posted leads to the posting of many ideas that are, frankly, not very innovative or useful. Having a lot of chaff among the wheat discourages potential idea implementers from browsing the site and finding valuable ideas to implement. WikiIdea also believes that having human moderators helps idea orignators to focus on posting the most promising ideas, while working with a community of idea originators and commenters to improve these innovative ideas.
  • Persons submitting ideas indicate whether they plan to implement their ideas or are just sharing their ideas for others to implement. Information about ideas submitters' intentions is helpful to potential idea implementers.
  • Persons indicating that they plan to implement their ideas further indicate whether they are seeking partners. Helping idea originators find partners accelerates the implementation of their ideas.
  • Moderators contact potential idea implementers and solicit comments about the feasibility of implementing ideas and their possible interest in doing so. (If the idea originator posts a commercial ideas that he or she plans to implement, WikiIdea, of course, does not contact other potential implementers.)
  • Idea originators and others are encouraged to post updates about progress made toward the implementation of ideas. Moderators follow up with idea originators who plan to implement their ideas to solicit reports.
  • In addition to posting public comments with feedback and suggestions to help guide an idea toward implementation, WikiIdea members can communicate directly with idea originators via an email facility that WikiIdea provides.

Finally, WikiIdea, in some cases, spurs the implementation of useful ideas through the power of public exposure.. Awareness of useful ideas sometimes exists in organizations, but personal or organizational barriers keeps these ideas from being discussed and implemented. Posting ideas on a public forum may overcome these barriers.

WikiIdea's secondary goal is to accelerate the generation of innovative ideas

In addition to its primary goal of accelerating the implementation of innovative ideas, WikiIdea aims to accelerate the generation of innovative ideas through the following:

  • Cross-pollination of ideas. WikiIdea encourages users to browse the site for ideas from different fields that they can combine with their own ideas to generate new, improved ideas. Some world-changing innovations (the printing press, baby incubators) have come from the cross-pollination of ideas from seemingly unrelated fields.
  • Suggestion box effect. Just as placing a suggestion box on the factory floor prompts workers to start thinking about how to improve production, the existence of a forum that facilitates the development and implementation of useful ideas—a forum that offers the possibility that posted ideas may become a reality—may prove a strong incentive for some people to generate more ideas.
  • Knock-on effect. Simply browsing a plethora of innovative ideas may prove a powerful spark for some people to generate their own ideas. Ideas tend to beget ideas.

Examples of ideas whose implementation could have been hastened by WikiIdea

The shipping container with remotely operable locking mechanisms was invented in the mid-1950s. It revolutionized shipping and was a key factor in the explosion of international trade.

However, the requisite technology for shipping containers existed as early as the 1930s. Probably hundreds of people working in ports around the world had the idea that there was a need for a better way to load and unload cargo from ships. Some of them may have had rudimentary ideas about a solution, such as using same-sized containers.

If a forum like WikiIdea had existed, someone could have posted the idea that there was a need for a better way to handle cargo in ports, perhaps along with some preliminary thoughts about a solution. Other people, particularly persons with mechanical-engineering expertise, might have read the post and collaborated with the idea originator to develop a solution.

If the shipping container had been invented and implemented 10 years earlier, the economic benefits (beyond those derived from its later invention and implementation) would have exceeded $500 billion, based on rough calculations.

The shipping container is a dramatic example of the potential benefits that may result from a Web-based forum like WikiIdea that accelerates the implementation of useful ideas.

Here are other ideas that plausibly occurred to some people long before others finally implemented them—after either hearing about the ideas or independently conceiving them.

  • Post-It Notes
  • On toll bridges, like the George Washington Bridge, only collecting tolls in one direction
  • Kickstarter—crowd-funding of creative projects
  • An app to deposit checks via a smartphone
  • Glue stick with colored adhesive that dries colorless
  • The Forever stamp
  • On the iPod Shuffle: One switch instead of two for on-off, play-in-sequence and play-randomly.
  • Truck-stop electrification (eliminates overnight idling)
  • Golf bag with dual shoulder straps
  • Pushpin thumbtacks

These ideas have generated substantial economic benefit and social value. Lost, however, are the benefits that would have occurred if these ideas had been implemented sooner.

Are you looking for ideas to implement?

WikiIdea is a valuable resource for idea implementers

Idea implementers can search WikiIdea for good ideas to implement. They can look for ideas for which the idea originators are seeking partners, or they can look for ideas that the idea originators just wish to share.

The following types of idea implementers may find WikiIdea of particular interest:

  • Creators and innovators who wish to follow ideas that are percolating in their areas of interest
  • Entrepreneurs and inventors looking for ideas and/or partners
  • Manufacturers and other businesses looking for ideas for new products or services or for improvements in existing products or services
  • Persons in the nonprofit and government sectors looking for ideas about new approaches or new services and for ideas about how to do a better job of delivering existing services

An important influence on WikiIdea

Steve Johnson's book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation is a source of inspiration for WikiIdea. The book provides much of the intellectual framework for the website. Johnson suggests that organizations should create an "open database of hunches [i.e., ideas]" to spur innovation. WikiIdea is an attempt to expand this concept beyond a single organization to the entire Web.