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Nimble Bee: the Co-Creating Community

Assistance in solving R&D design challenges with an international community of young potentials
Assistance in solving R&D design challenges with an international community of young potentials

The Nimble Bee project is an example of co-creation on multiple levels. First of all, the students work on a design challenge of a sponsor. The sponsor gives feedback on the designs and the students should take this into account when refining for the submission deadline at the end of the first round. The co-creation occurs also during the second round: the consumer feedback round. The consumers tell the designers what they like/dislike or how the design can be improved. After that, students can ask questions to the consumers during a Q&A-session. With this information, together with the sponsor’s jury feedback, they can redesign their idea for the final submission deadline. So for this consumer phase, there is a cooperation with end-users.

The overall objectives are different according to the actors.

  • For the universities, it is a unique opportunity to work on a real case from an existing company. They gather real life experience with feedback from international companies and end-users. They also want to be one of the three winning designs to receive the prize money. Having a design for a multinational in their portfolio also helps them in finding a first professional experience once graduated.
  • For the sponsor, the objective is to get a load of new, fresh ideas from different parts of the world, in a fast, efficient and effective way. The clients comment on the ideas and on the questions of the designers because they want to get the best out of it.
  • For CogniStreamer, Nimble Bee profiles us as an experienced provider in design crowdsourcing and facilitates a fully managed co-creation program. This way, CogniStreamer can help the sponsor with their innovation program on the basis of two domains in the CogniStreamer ‘innovation acceleration framework’: ‘design’ ideas on new challenges and ‘validate’ those ideas early on. Another objective is obviously generating revenue.
Process Main Stages: 


The search for participating schools starts, once a brief abstract of the challenge is drawn up. An email is sent out to a list of global universities, followed by personal calls to the respective professors. The professors decide whether the challenge fits their curriculum or not and if the timeline matches the duration of the semester. When they decide to participate in the competition, we ask them to sign a "letter of intent". This document does not represent an enforceable contract because we count on the goodwill of the schools, but for us, it is a confirmation of participation. Once the professors signed the "letter of intent", we ask them to send a list of the participating students. We need their names (first and last name) and email addresses. With these data, we can make every student a profile on the platform. Once the private drawing boards and the official challenge are ready and the full brief is on the platform, we can send out an invitation to the participating students.


The students receive an invitation to the platform. There, they can read the full brief of the challenge. To be able to read the full brief, the students have to sign the terms & conditions via a click-wrap agreement on the login page of the portal. It might happen that not everything is clear to them. Therefore, we host a webinar (about two weeks after the launch of the competition). During the webinar, the sponsor explains the challenge and the students get the opportunity to ask questions they might have. After that the Nimble Bee consultants explain the Nimble Bee process. Then the students can start the ideation process. They can work individually or in groups on their designs.


Halfway through the first round, the students can upload their designs in the "Private Drawing Board" of their school. They get feedback from the sponsor on the "deadline for feedback" and can redesign their idea if necessary. On the "final submission deadline for ideas", the students need to submit their final designs in the "official challenge" on the platform. The company jury of the sponsor reviews every design based on a few criteria and decides which design go to the second round.


The designs which were chosen as finalists (usually 10 designs) get the chance to present their ideas to a consumer panel. The consumers comment on the ideas and tell the designers what they like / dislike about the designs. In a second phase, the students can start the conversation and ask the consumers questions about the designs or specific habits regarding the product they are designing. During the feedback round, the students also get feedback from the sponsor´s jury at the end of stage 3. With this information, they can redesign their idea which they have to submit on the "final design submission deadline for finalists".


The 10 final designs get reviewed once more by the company jury of the sponsor. The jury chooses the three winning designs and the Nimble Bee team makes the announcement to the professors and the students. After that, we start the communication for the certificates of participation and the administration to pay the prize money.

Touchpoints & Bottlenecks: 


Once a sponsor decides to launch a Nimble Bee challenge, it needs to have a few meetings with the Nimble Bee consultants. During these meetings, a brief abstract is drawn up and the elements for the full brief are discussed. Once the competition has started, the sponsor needs to prepare a presentation that will be presented during the webinar. During this online meeting which is held via Webex, CogniStreamer and the sponsor explain the process and the full brief in detail. After the presentation of the sponsor, the students get the chance to ask questions which are answered by the sponsor. Another touchpoint is when the deadline for feedback is reached. The sponsor takes a look at the designs in the private drawing boards of the school and gives feedback on the sketches via the comment function on the platform. Once the final submissions are in, the jury team of the sponsor reviews the designs and selects the 10 best ideas. These 10 finalists re-design their idea and submit it one last time. The jury of the sponsor reviews the re-designs and reports the winning designs to CogniStreamer.


The professors are approached via an email with a link to the brief abstract. If they are interested in the competition they receive more information about the competition, timeline, challenge, etc. To be able to make a profile for the students on the platform, CogniStreamer needs to receive a list with the names and email addresses of the participating students. The Nimble Bee consultants communicate the date of the Webinar to the professors. They decide if they join the online meeting with the class or if the students join individually. After that, the professors are kept informed of the finalist and winner announcement via email.


The Nimble Bee experience starts for the students with an invitation to the platform. The students receive their username and password via email and with this data they can log in on the Nimble Bee platform. The students need to sign the "terms & conditions" when they enter the portal for the first time. During the competition they get emails when a milestone is getting closer: Webinar, deadline for feedback, final submission deadline for ideas, final submission deadline for finalists. The students get the chance to ask their questions directly to the sponsor during a webinar. They also receive emails with the announcement of the finalists and the winners. In addition, the students are approached via several posts on social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. Once the winners are known, the students receive an email with a link to request a certificate. The Nimble Bee consultants create a personal certificate for every participant and send it to the student via email. The winners also need to sign documents to receive their prize money. These documents are transferred via mail traffic.


The Nimble Bee consultants appeal on Toluna to find suitable consumers that meet the target group. These consumers receive an invitation to the platform with their username and password and an explanation of what is expected from them. They can comment on the ideas via the comment function on the platform and answer questions of designers in the Q&A section. Once the finalists upload their final design, the consumers give one more time feedback.

Success Factors / Barriers: 


One of the success factors of the Nimble Bee competition is the fact that it is held online. This implies that students from all over the world can participate in the competition. Which means that the sponsor gets different visions on the challenge. People from different parts of the world look at things in a different way and might see other innovative opportunities.

Another success factor is the online iteration between the students and the sponsor. For the students it is educative to work with/for a big company. For the company it might be refreshing to see all the innovative ideas of the students. The ‘Private Drawing Boards’ are also very successful. The students can upload their ideas in the private drawing board of their school. Here only their fellow students can see the designs. Once the Final Submission deadline is getting closer, they have to submit the design in the ‘Official Challenge’ where every other participant can see the designs. This way, ideas are not copied and the designs are much more creative.

Besides the feedback from the sponsor, the student also gets consumer feedback. If the student makes it to the second round, the consumers will comment on their design. The consumers tell the designer what they like/dislike and how the design might be improved. After the comments, the students can ask questions and get answers from the consumers. A final success factor is the fact that students can comment on and like each others’ ideas. This way they get a vision from people from another part of the world on their design.


A first barrier may be that the design process is actually physical and that they need to translate this into an online process. Another barrier is definitely the embedment into the curriculum. A many of the competitions let students participate in their process without the guidance of the professors. The Nimble Bee team decided that the competition should be embedded into the curriculum and that the professor should be a mentor who guides the students. This leads to more qualitative designs. Because of this, it is hard to engage the universities to join in our Nimble Bee competition. The professors need to have some spare room to embed the competition into the curriculum and they need to be willing to guide the students during the process. The standard legal framework which is the same for all schools, may also be a barrier. This implies that we can not allow adjustments for specific schools.


It is important to keep the brief as wide as possible. We advise the sponsor to include only the hard requirements in the full brief. These requirements are the aspects that must be present to become a finalist or winner. On the other hand, it is also appropriate that the sponsor provides enough context to the students and that the framework within which the design should function is outlined well. Another ‘do’ is to create a visual platform. This is more attractive for every actor (student, sponsor, consumer) and leads to more imagination and creativity.

A straightforward onboarding process is also very important. That way, students can log in easily and there is no barrier to join the competition. A strong and international brand will definitely boost the competition. Challenges that come from big, well-known companies get a lot more response than challenges from unknown companies.

It is also very important to have good communication and moderation. The actors need to know what is expected from them at what time. In addition, good project management with the sponsor is crucial to have a successful competition. The legal framework should be checked by the lawyers of CogniStreamer as well as the lawyers from the sponsor. This way, all actors know what can be expected during the competition. It is not recommended to send out 1 bulk email to the universities. A lot of professors do not read those emails. Sending them a personal email will automatically result in more response. We also experienced that there is more response when these emails are followed by personal calls to the respective professors.

Do not change the competition model and the timeline Ad Hoc. The deadline is made up so that every stage of the competition can be performed properly. If one deadline is changed, this automatically affects the following deadlines. Don’t put too much effort in small groups. The efforts of the Nimble Bee team should lead to as much designs as possible, but that will not be the case if the group only consists of a few people. Try not to communicate to much in the communication to the different actors and don’t overload them with information. Giving people too much information leads to uncertainties and therefore people will drop out of the competition. 

  • Keep the brief as wide as possible.
  • The sponsor provides enough context to the students and that the framework within which the design should function is outlined well.
  • Create a visual platform.
  • Have good communication and moderation.
  • Send out 1 bulk email to the universities.
  • Change the competition model and the timeline Ad Hoc.
  • Put too much effort in small groups.
  • Give people too much information (it can lead to uncertainties).