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Choosing our semi-finalists for I-Prize!

The first phase of our I-Prize contest has just been completed: we have evaluated all of the submitted ideas--thank you! In the course of the past few weeks, there have been some questions raised about how we go about evaluating the ideas. Let me explain how we did this.In I-Prize, there is a voting mechanism that lets participants raise (or lower) the overall score for an idea. This is not how we choose the best ideas. If so, why did we bother to put in the voting system? Let me explain: we have a set of internal questions that we asked for every idea: is it a big market, can Cisco get a good share, how close to our existing businesses, can we ensure enduring differentiation, etc. The answers to these questions were used to determine the overall score for an idea.We then went back an looked at the user-voting and we also looked at which ideas had attracted the most feedback and discussion. We used this to check whether there were ideas that had attracted a higher community vote (but that maybe had been scored lower by our own internal evaluation). We also considered ideas that we had scored lower but which had attracted a lot of responses and discussions. We then chose some ideas in these categories to add to our list of semi-finalists.The reason for doing this is that we wanted to combine expert opinion with the wisdom of crowds (and we wanted to see if there was any strong disagreement between the experts and the community!). If your idea got a low community vote--rest assured--we evaluated every idea on its merits without considering the vote. If you attracted strong interest from the community, we listened to that as well.In the next few days, we’ll be announcing our results, so stay tuned for phase 2!

Teamwork, Collaboration and Innovation

One of the missions of the Cisco I-Prize is to harness innovation and talent on a global scale. One of the most fascinating aspects of the competition is to see the level of collaboration already taking place as entrepreneurs and innovators engage in a dialog about each others ideas. There are over 1000 new business ideas and thousands of comments submitted. This is an excellent indicator that collaboration on a global scale can produce superior results.As we enter the final week of the Brainstorm phase, how will teamwork and collaboration evolve in the semi final phase? What should innovators do to prepare for the semi-final phase?In the semi-finals we will help teams of competitors refine their initial idea- providing more detail about the technology and the market opportunity. The Idea Submitter will have the opportunity to identify who they want on their team. Those teammates can be existing participants or new participants but everyone must agree to the semi-final terms and conditions. To facilitate teamwork and collaboration regardless of location, Cisco will equip each team with collaboration tools, learning materials and templates.A semi-final team could be a”team of one” but we believe that well constructed teams blend different skills and perspectives that produce superior results. In both the semi-final and final stages, strength of team will be a key evaluation criterion- after all, the winners will join Cisco as founders of new Emerging Technology business so we want to know who we are hiring!Having a big team or a small team is not important. Location is also not important. We expect that the winning team may be geographically distributed. What is important is to have dedicated teammates who work well together and who add significant value through their interactions. Since the signing bonus is shared equally by the winning team, there’s a built in incentive to manage the team size to only the truly essential collaborators. Cisco is looking for the nucleus that we can build around as we convert the winning team to an emerging Technology business unit.Skill set mix is another consideration. Ideally the winning team would blend technology skills and market knowledge but in reality we expect to hire the complementary skills to make the business successful. We want the winning team to have enough critical mass to build around.So for those of you competing in the Cisco I-Prize, now is the time to build your team. Good Luck!

Hot News: Cisco I-Prize Brainstorm Phase Extended 30 Days

For you”bottom line” types, here’s the news: The Brainstorm phase of the Cisco I-Prize will now conclude on February 13, 2008, approximately 30 days past the original deadline of January 15. For those of you interested in why, read on-.When we launched the Cisco I-Prize program, no one knew what would happen- How many people would enter? Would the ideas be good enough to meet our business goals? Would participants really work together to improve and refine their ideas?Now two and a half months later we know that more than 1600 people have entered from almost 90 countries. There are many, many high-quality ideas worth considering as semifinalists. And the level of community discussion and interaction has been unbelievably high. Global collaboration is really working. Feedback from everyone has been extremely positive.As the team here at Cisco sat down to discuss the closing of the first phase, and moving into the semi-final phase, there was a bit of melancholy in the air. So much exciting action was still taking place on the Cisco I-Prize site. In fact we’re continuing to see strong growth in ideas, participants, comments, and votes. Community behavior is emerging strongly.All good things must come to an end, but based on participant feedback and our own observations that the momentum is still in full gear, we decided to extend Phase I. This is a one-time extension so this won’t happen again. The new dates for the full program are posted on the Contest Overview.For those of you already participating, this is an opportunity to think about team formation for the semifinals and to continue to collaborate on the ideas with which you are engaged. For those of you who haven’t yet started participating, it’s not too late. And for the casual observers among you, you are watching one of the most interesting and dynamic examples of how global collaboration fosters accelerated innovation!

Semi Finals Approaching Fast! What will happen next?

The Brainstorm phase of the Cisco I-Prize is rapidly approaching its conclusion. Starting January 16th 2008 new entries on the I-Prize site will not be eligible for the competition.What will happen next? Read More »

Solutions in search of a problem

One of the challenges we face is that we frequently get really interesting solutions in search of a problem. Or put it another way, there is some cool technology but we don’t know how to put it to use in a productive way. This is a common problem with invention. Thomas Edison invented the phonograph (at the time, a wax cylinder capable of recording sound). He thought that the target market for this idea was for terminally ill people who could record their last will and testament. (you can tell he was an engineer and not a marketing person: not much of a repeat customer base here). :-) Sometimes you just need to come up with the better problem (e.g. people want to listen to music on-demand).Here are some others that we’ve come across. Any ideas on what problems they’d solve?Home automation: I can turn off appliances, measure their energy consumption, automate certain activities (e.g. turn off all the lights at night). But given that it’s often much more effective to add insulation, buy double-glazed windows, or replace an old appliance with a newer one (more energy efficient)-why bother with automation when I can do the things I just mentioned and can turn things off when I’m done?Thin client computing: Not that the problem of complexity and data loss on PCs aren’t real, it’s just that as the PC keeps getting cheaper all the time, are people really willing to give up on a fully-featured PC vs a terminal?RFID: Bar codes work pretty well in controlled environments (like warehouses), and RFID read accuracy is not (yet) good enough to make it in noisy places. Active RFID (with batteries) works better--but batteries wear out so then the tags go dark.I’m not trying to appear as a doom-and-gloom naysayer--I’m by nature a technology optimist and believe that sooner or later some (or all) of these will ‘pop’. Feel free to ask my opinion on any of your favorite ‘unloved’ technologies!