Steven Rader is the Deputy Director of the Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation at NASA, where he facilitates and promotes the use of collaborative innovation platforms for supporting development projects across the U.S. government. We spoke with Steve as part of our IL Member Spotlight series, which profiles members of the Innovation Leader network.
What’s a piece of advice or learning you want to share with other corporate innovators?
“Open” is the future and “innovation” is no longer optional. Open/crowd platforms are proving to be more and more capable at efficiently finding innovations, technologies, and expertise. The rate of technological change has now created a “do or die” environment when it comes to innovation. This rate of change is beginning to break traditional organizational structures and cultures.
Is there someone you especially admire as a role model creator, inventor, innovator?
I really admire the late Leila Janah. Leila was the author of an amazing book, Give Work, Reversing Poverty One Job at a Time, and the founder and CEO of Samasource, which is a crowdsourcing site designed to lift people out of extreme poverty. Leila innovated on the very model of how to use business and market forces to make a difference in the world. While Leila passed away earlier this year, her work and vision live on and provide an inspiration for tangible ways to improve the world through profitable businesses.
What’s a book, podcast, or other resource you would recommend to peers?
Competing in the Age of AI, Gig Mindset, and Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future are all books that I have found valuable.
Is there a success or recent achievement you’d want to spotlight?
The NASA CoECI team recently launched the NASA Open Innovation Services 2 contract with 19 different crowd platforms to expand NASA’s open innovation toolkit. The team has now executed over 475 challenges and has access to almost 40 different crowd platforms as well as over 110 million community members around the world.
Do you use outside consultants regularly? What are some of the factors that come into play when you’re choosing a consultant or outside advisory firm to help you?
NASA does not regularly draw on outside consultants, but instead has relied heavily on its numerous support contractors. However, given the rapid changes in the skills/expertise required for emerging technologies, NASA has recently started piloting projects that leverage open talent/freelancer platforms as a way to efficiently find and use experts.
While reliable expertise is a given requirement for NASA support, these experts also need to be able to work well with existing NASA team members to draw on contextual constraints and historical understanding while pulling in new concepts, technologies, and skills to help solve problems. Many of these new Open Talent platforms are proving to be quite good at finding and onboarding the required talent for a given task