Leveraging internal and external networks to uncover unexpected solutions to intractable problems.  

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Roche, a leader in the pharmaceutical industry, has embarked on an innovative journey to revolutionize its approach to research and development by leveraging both internal and external networks. With a significant investment in R&D, the company assembled a cross-functional team to explore more efficient ways of innovation, leading to a collaboration with the Wazoku Crowd.  This partnership enabled Roche to solve a longstanding issue in clinical specimen measurement through the collective intelligence of nearly 700,000 solvers from around the globe.

The Power of Networks

By assembling a diverse team, Roche aimed to explore efficient collaboration across its vast knowledge base. A survey revealed a strong belief in collaboration’s potential, despite existing barriers. This led to an experiment where challenges were shared within Roche’s R&D community, resulting in innovative solutions, such as an efficient power management technique discovered by a scientist from a different function. This approach highlighted the untapped potential of leveraging networks to solve complex problems, affirming the value of collaborative innovation in driving medical advancements. 

The Challenges 

In their quest for innovation, Roche embarked on a unique experiment to explore collaborative problem-solving within and beyond their organization. By challenging both internal R&D teams and an external network of scientists to solve identical problems, they aimed to uncover the most effective strategies for innovation. This initiative led to the identification of six complex challenges, spanning diverse scientific fields, to be tackled by the collective expertise of Roche’s global R&D community. This experiment not only sought to enhance understanding of collaborative innovation but also to discover new, efficient solutions to longstanding issues, marking a significant step forward in Roche’s innovative endeavors. 


Solvers registered within 2 months


Proposals submitted


Days took to solve a 15 year problem

“"It was a beautiful example of linking people across an organization who have allied interests, are working in the same field; they're trying to solve the same problem and these people simply didn't know to ask each other. And the problem may have been solved that simply." ”

Tod Bedilion
Director of Technology Management at Roche Diagnostics' Chief Technology Office

Key Insights from Roche’s Collaboration with Wazoku 

The Art of Reframing a Problem: Roche discovered that the quality of solutions is intrinsically linked to the clarity and detail of the questions asked. This underlines the importance of precisely framing challenges to elicit actionable and innovative responses. 


Diversity Drives Innovation: The formation of expert teams combining longstanding project members with fresh recruits highlighted the value of diverse perspectives. This blend of experience and new viewpoints sparked dynamic debates and enhanced the evaluation process, proving that diversity is a key ingredient in the recipe for groundbreaking solutions. 


A Continuous Learning Curve: The journey was as much about learning as it was about innovating. Roche’s team, initially unfamiliar with marketing strategies for promoting open innovation, evolved their approach through trial and improvement. Simplifying messages and strategically engaging the community led to increased participation and engagement, showcasing the necessity of adaptability in innovation practices. 


Experimentation Encourages Engagement: Approaching open innovation as an experiment rather than a conventional project fostered a more enthusiastic response from stakeholders. This experimental mindset facilitated a broader exploration of problem-solving methods, demonstrating that venturing into uncharted territories of innovation can yield remarkable outcomes. 


These insights not only paved the way for Roche to harness the full potential of open innovation but also serve as a beacon for other organizations navigating the complexities of collaborative problem-solving. 

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