Wikispeed: An Example of Institutional Innovation

What started as a one man team entering a design competition in 2008, has turned into a volunteer team that now exceeds 150 people all over the world. Competing to produce a 100-mpg road legal vehicle, Wikispeed has adopted an institutional innovation model that has been able to take a handful of volunteers and innovate faster than most of its well capitalized competitors. The open-sourced project has been designed to make use of social media, and by sticking to its innovation principles, collaborate with all of the volunteer experts in the various fields of applicable technology. The result has been staggering, with a 117 mpg model that is now available for just $25,000.

The reason that Wikispeed has found so much success so quickly has to do with the open collaboration that institutional innovation affords to the companies that openly adopt it. By focusing on the process and leveraging the experience of so many different people, Wikispeed has been able to solve design problems for a fraction of the cost of traditional methods. During the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize, they were able to complete a working prototype for the 100 mpg car with less than $300,000 in funding. Compare this to the millions that was spent by the other teams that entered the competition and you start to see the economic value of this model. Instead of being bogged down by rigid processes, Wikispeed is able to innovate quickly on any problem and work towards the ultimate solution.

Bringing together capital, talent, and information in a way that allows each of them to be maximized is at the core of institutional innovation. Making the architecture and framework malleable and adaptable is important to foster the innovative spirit inside each of the staff members. By having access to information through other experts and the vast knowledge base, through the latest technologies, people can innovate and get inspired in ways that can solve problems and find solutions at a blinding pace.

Focusing on the ability to learn quickly and utilize technology are the cornerstones of the new institutional innovation. By not fearing these tools as counter-productive towards efficiency and embracing them as the new necessity for business innovation, organizations can learn to learn and innovate in a radically more effective manner. The business marketplace requires all organizations to be adaptable and innovative and using institutional innovation will help you leverage the resources for the best results.

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