Lessons Learned From DARPA Balloon Challenge
from the it's-amazing-what-people-can-do dept
While some other DARPA challenges, like the autonomous vehicle challenge (to get a totally driverless vehicle to drive a few hundred miles with no help), are cool but seem limited in terms of application outside of the core area it was built for, this one actually does seem to hold a lot of useful lessons that can be picked up on right away, and which can be applied across a lot of different business, policy, IT, public good and many other areas. Some of the key elements:
- Recognize that there's power in numbers: Recognize that for certain projects, you need a lot of different minds (and eyes) working on things, and that certain tasks shouldn't just be done by "the one best" individual.
- Make it easy for more people to participate: Once you realize that you need a lot of people, you need to make it easy for them to participate.
- Give people multiple reasons to participate: Different people have different motivations. Some people just want to belong to a successful project or a leading team to bask in the glow. Others need additional types of incentive. The MIT team offered up monetary compensation in addition to recognition for participation.
- Give people a reason to get others involved: Sort of a corollary to recognizing the power in numbers, the MIT team worked hard to give people incentive not just to participate and to promote their participation, but also to recruit others to the team as well. This even made it so those who couldn't help finding the balloons directly could still participate in better finding the people who could find the balloons.
- Align incentives properly: Make sure that everyone is driving towards the same goal, and that the incentives work on top of one another to all push towards that same goal.
- Look beyond your immediate "group": One of the coolest things I thought about the MIT group was that there was nothing in there that limited it to MIT or the folks at MIT. They immediately recognized that it made the most sense to reach out to folks beyond their immediate circle, which is what helped them get the people they needed involved quickly.