Whilst much of the last century has seen organisations trying to stockpile talent inside their walls under the belief that having the best brains is a surefire way of securing the best innovations. You’re sure to stay ahead of the curve so long as you have the greatest minds available to you. This brains arms race only intensified as the knowledge economy began to take off.
In recent years however, things have shifted somewhat, with organisations beginning to realise that there is probably going to be many more smarter people not employed by you than there ever will be employed by you.
Suffice to say, that shift is still at a nascent stage, but it is no doubt occurring, with various open innovation and crowdsourcing projects aiming to tap into the previously unknown talent lying outside the organisation. If you’re still not convinced by this whole notion, the following story might tip you over into convert status.
Stanford University are one of the most prestigious in the world, and are home to some of the finest minds, not least in the STEM subjects that underpin Silicon Valley. So you’d think the talent on their team would be the creme de la creme, right?
Well. A few years back, Stanford joining the then burgeoning movement to open up their courseware to the world that had been led by MIT, and which evolved into the MOOCs we all know and love. Their Stanford Engineering Everywhere (SEE) initiative allows students to take courses in computer science, engineering, AI and so on.
The first SEE course was an introduction to artificial intelligence. 160,000 people signed up for the course, with around 35,000 of those completing the first three weeks of homework. As those of you that have taken a MOOC will know, most of these assignments are graded, so you get an idea of how well you’re understanding the material.
Here’s the kicker. Of the students that took the actual, physical version of this course at Stanford, not one of them achieved a perfect score. Fair enough you say, a perfect score must be pretty tough to achieve, except that from the online contingent, 248 of them managed it. So that’s 248 people that Stanford would never have known about were it not for the SEE’s ability to bring in talent from outside.
If one of the finest academic institutions can find finer minds outside their walls, how many talented individuals are lurking outside of your horizons?