Mobilized networks can be highly effective problem solving resources. I vividly recall driving with my family to Marco Island years ago, when we were stumped trying to recall the name of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' sensei (this was prior to the advent of smartphones). My middle school aged son David decided to text his friends to seek their assistance. Within moments, we received multiple replies of "Splinter!" It goes without saying that most business or technical problems are considerably more pressing and challenging than this one, but still, it offers a great example of networked problem solving. Specialized service providers that can solicit an extensive solver network to respond to technical challenges can be a practical option to consider. Casting a broad net to thousands of potential solvers may be a worthwhile way to generate some viable solution options. However, one must also recognize and accept that these solicitations carry meaningful risks and limitations, which include: soliciting a large solver network does not guarantee that many or even any solvers will have a sufficiently relevant or precise solution to offer. They may offer what they have in-hand, rather than what is needed. As such, these solutions will vary widely in terms of their precision, maturity and validity, among the others who respond, they will issue a proposal to develop a custom solution, which carries its own time, cost and risk factors.
Alternatively, a technology scout can represent an attractive option for many challenges. An individual with strong information gathering and synthesizing skills and dogged persistence can offer a very appealing and effective alternative to passive problem solving approaches such as the one described above. The scout can seek out and directly engage parties known to have relevant knowledge in fields of interest, including ones who would not be included in a challenge solicitation. He can then mine the details, pursue referrals and piece together the overall puzzle. A good scout works interactively and collaboratively with his client to refine the scouting effort as more information is collected and synthesized and solution options become clearer. If the above argument sounds a bit self-serving given that it describes the scouting work that I do...then so be it. I sincerely believe it to be true.
It is fair to say that each approach has certain strengths and limitations. Net, one's choice of problem solving approach should be decided by the type of problem at-hand. Just don't assume that the ability to access a huge potential solver network by itself predetermines project success. Your thoughts?