Creativity & Problem-Solving

Races vs. Tournaments

Contests are frequently used to raise the workers’ productivity and innovation in business, government, and many other settings.  They can take many different formats or designs, but two seem prevalent:  the race and the tournament. Races set the incentives by rewarding the first person to meet a specified,... Read more about Races vs. Tournaments

Optimal Prize Structure

One of the strongest design parameters for contests is the prize structure, i.e., the number and level of prizes. In developing best practices, we are working to provide guidance to practitioners to optimize the use of prize funds. Optimal selection of prizes is a complex task. For tasks with diminishing returns to effort (the 100th hour of work improves the output less than the 1st hour),... Read more about Optimal Prize Structure

Best Management Practices

LISH is working to develop testable systems and methods to help open innovation (OI) practitioners explore techniques for best practices. To date, the lab has spent extensive time studying both contests and communities with profit companies, governments, academic research centers, and platforms. Research in these areas explore... Read more about Best Management Practices

Elizabeth E. Richard, Jeffrey R. Davis, Jin H. Paik, and Karim R. Lakhani. 4/25/2019. “Sustaining open innovation through a “Center of Excellence”.” Strategy & Leadership. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This paper presents NASA’s experience using a Center of Excellence (CoE) to scale and sustain an open innovation program as an effective problem-solving tool and includes strategic management recommendations for other organizations based on lessons learned.

This paper defines four phases of implementing an open innovation program: Learn, Pilot, Scale and Sustain. It provides guidance on the time required for each phase and recommendations for how to utilize a CoE to succeed. Recommendations are based upon the experience of NASA’s Human Health and Performance Directorate, and experience at the Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard running hundreds of challenges with research and development organizations.

Lessons learned include the importance of grounding innovation initiatives in the business strategy, assessing the portfolio of work to select problems most amenable to solving via crowdsourcing methodology, framing problems that external parties can solve, thinking strategically about early wins, selecting the right platforms, developing criteria for evaluation, and advancing a culture of innovation. Establishing a CoE provides an effective infrastructure to address both technical and cultural issues.

The NASA experience spanned more than seven years from initial learnings about open innovation concepts to the successful scaling and sustaining of an open innovation program; this paper provides recommendations on how to decrease this timeline to three years.


Sponsored by NASA, the goal of this  2013 series of challenges was to develop an iPad application for astronauts to use on the International Space Station (ISS) to track food intake. Astronauts on ISS have busy daily schedules and needed a simple way to record what they eat and drink in... Read more about ISS-FIT App