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Emergent Learning

Idea Sharing Approaches

  • IdeaStorm (Dell)
    Dell is using Idea Share technology from Salesforce to solicit product ideas from their customers and the public.  They call this idea platform IdeaStorm.  The most impressive outcome from this has been the development of a Linux laptop, a top-rated idea that Dell has resisted for years.  With overwhelming support on IdeaStorm however, Dell went forward with the project and had a very successful launch.  Not exactly rocket science — if enough customers and prosepects tell you they will buy something if you build it, there isn’t much risk in building it.
  • EDR, Cienna, iRise, and Webex are using Mzinga IdeaShare technology as part of their overall community solution to solicit ideas from customers, partners, and suppliers to help drive their businesses.  The basic goal is the same in all cases: solicit ideas from the public, partners and suppliers on product features, service offerings, and best practices.  The idea share technology, like the product Dell uses, captures the idea and also enables the crowd to “score” it so that the best ideas can rise to the top.  In our case, we provide a granulated scale that also includes negative reactions so that the full judgement of the crowd comes through.  More on these customers can be found further down the page.


  • FindLaw
    FindLaw is a site for user find lawyers and legal advice.  A big part of this site is an exchange where users can post legal questions and lawyers can provide answers.  Similar in concept to LinkedIn Answers, this site is an interesting mix of emergent and formal knowledge.  Obviously, the legal profession is based on established precendent, but the application of precendent to the unique vagaries of each case is emergent.  FindLaw is a Mzinga client.
  • Ford SyncMyRide
    To reduce support costs for the Sync product, Ford Motor Company turned to their customers on the SyncMyRide site.  The product has many devices that are approved by the manufacturer for use with Ford; however, customers are finding that there are other devices that can also work with it as well, and are also sharing tips and tricks on using Sync.  The site boasts over 10,000 active users (all of whom have to input a VIN to be compliant with government regulations) and over 1 million message views.  Ford is one of our customers and the site runs on the Mzinga platform.  See here for a source; some of my numbers are more up-to-date since they are a customer.
  • Cook Medical
    Cook Medical is another Mzinga client.  They use discussions as a mechanism for sufferers of a particular disease to support each other and provide advice and ideas in coping with their affliction.  A separate chat is used by doctors and specialist to share and identify existing and emerging best practices.  As in many of these emergent stories, the community is not restricted to “employees” but extends the concept of workplace to include outside consultants and the like.


  • Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
    When Royal Caribbean was launching a new cruise line they asked us to moderate and facilitate a public chat about their launch.  They also used our chat technology.  While you might not normally associate “chat” with emergent knowledge, Royal Caribbean learned a wealth of valuable information about customer interests, concerns, and ideas that they are now able to leverage in product design, pricing, marketing etc…  Through some analytics we pulled together, they were able to chart trends in the conversation and reactions to what they were saying.

Prediction Markets

  • Google
    Google has been using prediction markets for many years now, but even as far back as 2005 (aeons ago in web time), they were having great results.  Recently, there was an analysis done on the way prediction markets within Google map to social networks.
  • Best Buy
    Best Buy is using Prediction Markets to monitor progress toward specific goals.  Workers buy and sell stock in certain initiatives based on the likelyhood of outcomes.  This is part of the overall strategy which also includes wikis, blogs, idea sharing, and discussions.
  • Eli Lily
    Eli Lily has successfully used prediction markets to identify drug candidates that would make it through clinical trials.
  • American Express
    A few years ago, Mzinga helped American Express conduct a Members Project to solicit ideas to make the world better.  Members then voted on results with the winning idea getting funded with $1-5 million.

Competition or Reward Models

  • P&G
    P&G has basically turned R&D on its head by soliciting ideas from the public and it’s customers.  Over 50% of P&G’s new product ideas now come from outside the company and, at the same time, they have significantly reduced R&D efforts.  Here is another great source on P&G’s efforts.    By the way, neither of these articles note that P&G has exceed 50% of innovation from outside (they are several years old), but I heard this from several sources that they crossed this mark this past year.
  • Innocentive
    Innocentive was started by two Eli Lily alum as a third party site for organizations to tap external experience in solving difficult or intractable scientific problems.  It’s essentially a market-place that connects seekers and solvers.  Seekers post challenges and problems and associated “reward” money for solving the proble, and solvers post solutions.  If the solution works, they get paid.  To date, over 800 challenges have been posted and just under 50% of these have been solved with $3 million in awards going to solvers.  (Wikipedia has a good summary of references to follow).
  • Cisco i-Prize
    Following the success of the i-Zone, Cisco decided to open a competiton with the public to solicit ideas for new products or services that Cisco might pursue.  Through this i-Prize initative, Cisco identified a possible market for energy efficient network switching for the electric grid, in which Cisco will likely invest over $10 billion in the coming years.  The winning team was led by a graduate student from Germany.
  • Gold Corp
    GoldCorp is one of my favorite stories from Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything.  The basic gist of the story is this:  guy buys gold mining company but knows nothing about it, none of his experts can find any gold on his various sites, guy decides to post all of his mining data online (a major departure from status quo in the industry), and guy offers a substnatial reward for anyone who can help find them find some gold.  The result?  Massive success, lots of money, contributions from people in all kinds of diverse fields, many with no mining experience.


  • i-Zone (Cisco)
    Internal idea sharing through Idea Zone resulted in $3 billion in new market opportunities for Cisco.  400 ideas were submitted to the internal wiki and then 10,000 employees extended those ideas, enhanced them, shot them down etc… to help winnow them down to a manageable number.  These were then further vetted and winnowed by members of the leadership team, resulting in 3 ideas collectively worth $3 billion in new markets.  Like Scottrade below, this fits into both collaboration and emergent knowledge capture.
  • Scottrade Competitor Wiki
    Scottrade has been in growth mode for awhile and couldn’t keep up with either the distribution of new information to new branches or the related influx of competitor information.  Formal models of information capture and delivery were taking too long and requiring too many resources so they moved to a wiki model where everyone could share best practices and new information.  This solution, like many others in this list, is also a great example of how to facilitate collaboration and sharing as well.

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General Community

  • Cienna Partner Community
    Cienna has developed a technical partner community to connect partners to internal product resources within Cienna to drive innovation.  They are doing this through idea share, virtual events and conferences, and discussions.  “Conversations are strategic to so many people for so many different reasons…”  The emergent part of this is the capturing of new ideas to drive product innovation.
  • Perkins Eastman Practice Area Communities (PACs)
    Perkins Eastman is one of the top architectural and design firms in the world.  Team projects can last for years and there is an obvious need for deep collaboration around what they are doing.  At that same time, certain kinds of projects may be done in similar ways over and over – for example senior living facilities.  So when an architect effectively introduces a new, more effective flooring for senior living facilities, this design approach needs to be captured and shared so that others designing senior facilities can benefit.  Classic emergent practice.  Perkins Eastman does all of this through Practice Area Communities (PACs).  Unlike some of the other stories in this list, Perkins is a pure “inside the company” story.

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  • EDR
    EDR, the leading provider of environmental risk information in the United States, worked with Mzinga to create “Commonground,” a global community for property due diligence professionals.  Commonground allows environmental professionals, engineers, mortgage lenders, attorneys, insurers, appraisers, inspectors and industry thought leaders to collaborate and come together to improve the quality of real estate due diligence.  The emergent part of this is a result of complexity, both in laws and the nature of the problems.  While there are patterns, each case is unique, requiring new application of data and interpretation of the data.  To support this emergent model, EDR uses discussions and idea share.
  • John Deere Community
    When you think tractors, you immediately think social learning right?  Like the Ace Hardware and Caterpillar stories further down, this one just highlights the truth that these solutions apply to any business.  John Deere is another Mzinga client.  We helped them to create a private and exclusive community that would enable its premium tractor owners to engage in peer discussions, connect with product managers in real time, share ideas on how best to operate the John Deere machinery, and offer suggestions for new product enhancements.The community enables John Deere to collect and capture insight from its most exclusive and premium market segment, which it then leverages to help improve products and develop new product features.  As with a lot of these stories, the community is about peer-to-peer collaboration and sharing among owners and about capturing emergent knowledge, ideas, and best practices.  It’s also, like Cienna, iRise, and EDR, about breaking down the walls between “outside the company” and “inside the company.”
6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 25, 2009 11:07 am

    Great examples!
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Wendi Braun permalink
    September 8, 2009 11:28 am

    I’m looking for internal examples of social learning in the workplace. Thanks for sharing these. Please add more when you get fully emersed at


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