Everyone seems interested in getting the most impact out of their innovation efforts. Collaborative Innovation Networks (COINs) have mushroomed since the invention of the Internet and cheap mobile communications. Community-based innovation and biomedical and health online innovation networks have the potential to speed new product development, offer alternative financing platforms for early stage ventures, provide education, information, and support to those with particular diseases and help to lower the costs and speed of clinical trials. However, questions remain about their effectiveness in creating value, security, commercial and clinical validity, legal status, and sustainability.
An important question is whether COINs, particularly in bioscience and health, create lasting impact, and, if so, under what circumstances. Based on my experience co-founding a non-profit COIN and contributing to efforts to transform it into a sustainable entity that meets its mission, i.e. getting biomedical and health ideas to patients, leaderpreneurs need to overcome several hurdles:
1. A relentless focus on advancing a clearly defined, easy-to-understand mission.
2. Creating and validating a business model that generates enough revenue to sustain the organization.
3. A marketing effort that uses state-of-the-art social media techniques to target those most interested in supporting your mission.
4. Minimizing spending on things that don't add user defined value.
5. Continually offering new products and services as part of the platform.
6. Telling your story in a way that it appeals to the heart—not the head—of potential supporters.
7. Engaging and building the community of interest until it reaches a tipping point.
8. Transitioning from working in the COIN to working on the COIN once it has reached a critical mass.
9. Cheaply creating and killing experiments early when it is clear they won't yield positive results
10. Expanding your influence to interface or open networks with overlapping interests
Creating a COIN to make an impact is but the initial step. To reach your SMARTCOIN goals, the community will need to evolve along a pathway that delivers results, not just vanity numbers on a LinkedIn group.