images-4The Internet has plenty of drawbacks – hours of mindless wasted time, online abuse, etc. Its benefits outweigh its negatives, however, at least I believe so. I know I’ve grown to take it for granted, so much so that I rarely stop to think about how incredible it really is. One thing that always reminds me of the power of the Internet, though, is crowdsourcing. We cover Kickstarter campaigns almost every day, so we get to watch as companies are born with the help of people across the world. And I’m constantly amazed, and humbled, by seeing people collectively donate thousands of dollars to help strangers through platforms like GoFundMe.

It’s also fascinating to watch as huge, well-established organizations reach out through crowdsourcing to harness the skill, knowledge and creativity of the public. NASA is one of the most prominent examples, with their frequent challenges to the public – both adults and children – to come up with solutions for the future of space travel. Now GE has announced that they will be launching a startup completely dedicated to crowdsourcing and to innovation through global networking.

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Dyan Finkhousen

GE announced their plan at BrightIdea’s Synthesize conference, currently taking place in San Francisco. The business venture, called Fuse, will be launched next week, and will be a 3D printing/rapid prototyping factory in practice, but it will also be the grounds for testing a new business model, one that will draw on the expertise of professionals around the world to create new solutions and companies.

GE believes that the new model is the future of business, one that addresses the question of why so few great ideas actually come to fruition. Collaboration, rather than isolation, can greatly accelerate innovation and development, the company believes, and according to Dyan Finkhousen, director of GE’s Open Innovation and Advanced Manufacturing Group, they have gathered data from several use cases showing that crowdsourcing speeds the development of an idea into a product by 50%.

The Open Innovation and Advanced Manufacturing Group has been working for nearly four years to develop the new model, which will rely on crowdsourcing not only for ideas but for the development of business plans related to those ideas.

“We are not the innovators. We have a lot of brilliant people here at GE and so do our customers and suppliers. We want to make it easy for brilliant people to access other brilliant people and to generate amazing outcomes,” the company stated. “We asked ourselves how can we make the biggest impact? How do we collapse the chasm between idea and product? The shift to crowd gets us into markets at lightning speed.”

geinnovation

It’s a radical idea in an economy based so much on private business development. The established model has products being developed in secrecy behind closed doors, limiting input only to those within one company. If GE is successful with the Fuse idea, it could lead to a dramatically different-looking economy in the future, an economy built on the collaborative efforts of people around the world.

The fact that Fuse is starting as a 3D printing factory is appropriate – so much of 3D printing has become crowd-developed. The 3D printing industry would almost certainly not be as far along as it is today if not for the sharing of ideas through open-source platforms. Fuse is a daring experiment, but it’s one that could greatly pay off for both GE and the rest of the world. Discuss at the Fuse Startup forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source: ZDNet]

 

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