Adam Czyzewski

Crowdsourcing

As a little boy I came up with an idea of how to become a millionaire. It was enough to persuade a million people to give me one dollar for some good cause. For them it would be a small expense and for me – a great benefit. However, the cost of reaching such a large number of people prevented me from turning that idea into reality. Still, it represented an attempt to take advantage of a crowd in order to implement one’s plans, which is what crowdfunding, a form of crowdsourcing, is all about. The term ‘crowdsourcing’ was coined in 2006 by Jeff Howe of Wired Magazine.

I could now return to my childhood idea, posting it on one of the crowdfunding platforms, such as GoFundMe, Kickstarter or Indiegogo. These three are the top ones, but there is a wide range to choose from, including Polish platforms. Someone might ask how I would persuade strangers to invest in my project. It turns out that the idea itself is more important than arguments. It just has to be appealing. Experience has shown that people are keen to fund quite bizarre ideas, such as Zack Brown’s Potato Salad. The author of the project announced that for the first time in his life he was going to make a potato salad. To this end, he needed ten dollars, and the most generous donors would be mentioned by name. The mechanism of crowdfunding assumes (as opposed to public fundraising) that the author of a project will provide those contributing money with a previously specified reward. Zack Brown was secretly hoping to collect sixty dollars and did not conceal his delight and surprise when proceeds from the project amounted to seventy-two thousand dollars. Ridiculous campaigns that won quite a large support are plentiful, so it is no surprise that crowdfunding is becoming widely popular.

It all began not long ago, in 1997, in the United States – where innovative ideas typically originate. According to Wikipedia (which has been a crowdsourced project itself), American fans of the British rock band Marillion collected sixty thousand dollars in an Internet campaign to finance their concert tour around the United States. 2000 saw the launch of ArtistShare.net – the first Internet platform enabling musicians to finance their artistic projects with funds contributed by their fans through online campaigns. In 2008, Indiegogo was created, giving its users an opportunity to fund projects of different types, and Kickstarter – currently the world’s largest and most famous crowdfunding portal – was established in 2009.

Since 2010, crowdfunding Internet platforms have been also present in Europe. In March 2012, the Polish Crowdfunding Society was established to help shape the legal and economic framework so as to make crowdfunding a generally available source of capital.

As my blog readers know, we have long been involved in developing innovative processes. Now is the time for action. It is with great satisfaction and delight that I inform you that PKN ORLEN, in cooperation with NineSigma, has announced a competition for crowdsourcing innovation to enhance the energy efficiency of our refineries.

The idea behind the competition is to find a new solution for efficient recovery and use of waste heat produced in the process of crude oil distillation. At present, such heat is irretrievably lost into the atmosphere as there is no technology that would enable its cost-effective use. We count on the global community of innovators and PKN ORLEN’s experts to change this. What is great about the competition is that we are open to a range of new solutions. The recovered waste heat may be stored, converted into steam or electricity, or used for the manufacture of chemical products. We are interested in any idea that would help reduce operating costs, not only at refineries but generally in all areas where large volumes of heat are lost.

However, not a solution to the problem itself, albeit so important to the refinery, is the project’s primary objective. What we value most is captured by three keywords: knowledge, cooperation and evolution.

  • Knowledge − gained in the course of the project, will help us better understand the potential and nature of global crowd interaction. We are particularly interested in best practice transfer related to the creation and management of a crowdsourcing platform. It is a well managed platform that makes it possible to reach a wide group of experts, which is the basic prerequisite for success in such a venture.
  • Cooperation – with the global community of innovators, not limited to the issue of low-temperature heat. One of the key aspects of PKN ORLEN’s crowdsourcing project is to engage the largest possible group of the Company’s experts to directly interact with top specialists and scientists from all over the world. The relations established in this process will bear fruit in the future by contributing to active and direct knowledge sharing and further innovative projects.
  • Evolution – of PKN ORLEN towards a more open and flexible company, involved in continuous dialogue with the Internet community, scientific and research institutions and industry experts. The greatest success of the project would be its contribution to building a truly innovative corporate culture at PKN ORLEN, combining its internal potential and expertise with the global crowd’s creativity. As a result, we would be able not only to understand and anticipate imminent changes, but also create solutions keeping us a step ahead.

 

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