"Competitions create a level playing field among participants and provide a vehicle for organizations to reward-and benefit from-creative thinking," says Anil Rathi. That belief is what inspired him to create the Innovation Challenge, the largest and most-established online competition platform.
During the initial competitions of the 10-year-old platform, it could have used a better way to register contestants, collect entries, and judge them. The software created to help was the springboard for the user-friendly contest app, Skild. "We discovered that there weren't many other places administrators could go if they wanted to manage online competitions, so we started to license Skild to other organizations," says Rathi about the Los-Angeles based company. "Through feedback from their experiences, we refined Skild by integrating new features and functionality."
"With regard to design, many times, organizations do not know where to begin when it comes to refining their contest idea, architecture, and flow of a competition," Rathi says. "We often consult with groups that have previously attempted to run an event, only to fail because of poor structure or overly complicated registration or entries requirements that create a barrier toward participation."
In terms of time management, the Skild platform removes the pain of collecting hundreds or thousands of email submissions, or worse-actual physical documents, DVDs, photos, and prototypes. "Gone are the days of time wasted weeding through disorganized entries patched together using different online resources like Google Docs and SurveyMonkey," says Rathi. "With Skild, everything is managed in one location, and administrators can see submissions and judging happen in the system in real time."
To further democratize the power of online challenges, Skild launched OpenSkild last month. "It incorporates the customizable contest creation and management platform so companies of any size can use it," Rathi says.
Skild's team has managed nearly 200 hundred of these competitions over the years, and that learning and expertise is poured right into OpenSkild. Administrators can design and manage their own creativity/innovation competitions, award programs, or crowdsourcing contests. It's also quick and easy to produce events that offer online registration, submission, evaluation, and feedback. Price points are based on range of features, so it's feasible for any organization, no matter the size or budget.
"We've had about a 50 percent increase in registrations from both small and large organizations," Rathi says. "They want to leverage OpenSkild for employee idea contests, incubators to find next the innovative entrepreneur, corporate citizenship programs, star search contests to find a spokesperson for a brand, and inventor competitions."
The point of OpenSkild is to help smaller companies and startups find great ideas and individuals utilizing competition-based challenges and submissions. "Regardless of resources, the power of innovation-based competitions can be applied to real-world challenges like corporate problem-solving, product development, and ideation," says Rathi. "This is a future-facing look at how communities, organizations, and societies can grow."
Skild has been the competition backbone of several large, well-known companies and organizations in the past, including Google, AT&T, Autodesk, MTV, Nike, NASA, The National Science Foundation, and General Electric. "OpenSkild can help small businesses and start-ups," Rathi says. "We want to express that, in addition to online creativity contests and award programs, OpenSkild can be used for recruitment, promotions, brand engagement, and challenge-based training."
The Friendship Public Charter School Teacher of the Year Award is an example of a smaller organization currently using Skild. Located in the D.C. area, Friendship Charter Schools are comprised of ten campuses. Aiming to recognize the best teachers, the collective community (students, parents, faculty and staff) is asked to nominate a teacher from their school to be crowned as the Teacher of the Year. After nominations are collected, committee leaders representing each of the ten campuses submit portfolios on behalf of their nominee. Those portfolios are then reviewed and evaluated by a select group of judges. The top teacher is chosen, and the nominees and winner are celebrated.
"This program is a great example of how a community can rally together to recognize excellence," says Rathi. "Anyone can apply for the OpenSkild beta now, and we will gradually expand the service to everyone over the next few quarters."