Web-Smart Skunkworks at The Economist

The venerable Economist magazine has a smart innovation project going, called Project Red Stripe. They created a team of six web-savvy staffers and let them loose on a six-month project to come up with new ways to use the internet and expand the business. You can follow along on their blog, and there’s even a web cam set up in their office, now showing a desk and no people, but I’ll check back once in a while. Their recommendation to management is due in May.

The Red Stripe team has just set up an easy way for the world to give them ideas, and I couldn’t resist. I suggested that they gather into an RSS feed the blogs of anyone who has ever written for The Economist, because that’s probably a smart group, and I’d be interested in seeing what they’re writing. It might include my Wyoming friend Sam Western, a long-time stringer for the magazine.

Mike Seery, team leader and self-described “all round good guy,” solicited members for the team in September using a flash show you can watch here.

I’m sure there are many teams in many companies tasked with this sort of innovation hunt, responding to some higher-up’s directive to “figure out how we can get rich on Web 2.0.” What’s particularly cool about Red Stripe is that the process itself is unusually transparent, overcoming the natural tendency to keep things under wraps, especially from competitors. By doing this, the team has already accomplished something significant for The Economist.

And, as my own post shows, the blogosphere is helping the team gather ideas, and that’s exactly what Seery anticipated:

In the more public domain, the invitation is expected to snowball and become a topic of conversation in the blogosphere, drawing those who have little or no affiliation with any of our businesses to consider submitting their ideas.

Very smart. And, just as a byproduct, learning about Red Stripe makes me more likely to pick up a copy of The Economist today in Harvard Square. The magazine also has a good podcast summarizing what’s in the print version. Well done, chaps!

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2 Responses to Web-Smart Skunkworks at The Economist

  1. Stew says:

    Hi Len,

    We don’t have to take our recommendations to management. The management committee has empowered us to take whatever we think is suitable straight to market.


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