The problem-solving prizes 為鼓勵創新和解決問題設置“挑戰獎”

What's a challenge prize?

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當你遇到困難的時候,會怎麼辦?找專家?問朋友?或者你會找陌生人來幫你解決問題,你付錢給他們作為回報?這正是“挑戰獎”背後的初衷。近來,“挑戰獎”這個概念再次受到人們的歡迎。跟隨本集《隨身英語》,了解“挑戰獎”的由來和人們利用它的原由。

課文內容

Vocabulary: Innovation and problem-solving 詞彙: 創新和解決問題

What do you do when you have a problem? Do you go to an expert, ask your friends to come up with an idea? Or, given the chance, would you ask a crowd of strangers for a solution? It may sound strange, but it has spurred more than a few successful innovations. That’s the thinking behind a ‘challenge prize’.

Challenge prizes come in many shapes and sizes but the basic concept remains the same. Rather than consulting and paying an expert to innovate a solution, you offer the prize up to anyone who believes they can solve it and present the first to do so with a prize. This might sound odd – many would argue, ‘Who is better qualified than an expert?’ But actually, not using one seems to result in a great deal of thinking outside of the box.

Some argue that formal education can kill creativity because it sometimes only teaches a single solution to a problem or single method to achieve a task. In the same way, some suggest that experts can suffer from tunnel vision. “If we launch an XPRIZE and it’s just the ‘experts’ that come out and compete, they’re usually the ones that will tell us it can’t be done.” says Marcus Shingles, former CEO of the XPRIZE Foundation, which organises challenge prizes today.

There are other advantages too. “You’re not asking people to use a particular solution set on how to solve that problem. So you get this tremendous amount of diversity.” adds Shingles. And because the crowd acts like an impromptu think tank, its lateral thinking can throw up issues that may have been overlooked.

Challenge prizes were most popular during the 18th and 19th centuries, but have received renewed interest more recently. Historically, many practical inventions have been conceived in this way – for example, the tin can. More recently, Virgin Galactic, a company hoping to commercialise space flight, developed out of the Ansari XPRIZE 2004 winner Tier One. They successfully launched a reusable spacecraft that left the Earth’s atmosphere twice in two weeks. The prize was $10m.

However, there are dangers connected to blue-sky thinking. “You don’t want to be creating a challenge prize which incentivises people to solve a problem where there is no demand,” says Tris Dyson, executive director of challenge prizes at Nesta, a UK-based innovation foundation. This happened in 1979 where a Kremer prize of £100,000 was claimed by the first person to fly under human power across the English Channel. Despite its successful completion, it has not led to the adoption of human-powered flight as a form of travel. And of course, there are those who invest their personal time and money only to see no return at all: someone else claims the prize, or they find that the reward does not match the resources they invested.

The pros and cons of challenge prizes affect both problem-setters and problem-solvers. But they don’t seem to be going out of style anytime soon. To many, the challenge to innovate, the lure of the prize and the prestige of being first is too much to resist. And there’s no solution for that.

詞彙表

come up with 想出,提出
solution 解決辦法
spur innovation 激發創新
concept 概念
innovate 創新(解決方案)
solve 解決
think outside the box 以新眼光看問題,跳出傳統的思維框框
tunnel vision 視野狹隘,井底之蛙
think tank 智囊團
lateral thinking 橫向思維
throw up issues 拋出問題
overlook 忽略,忽視
invention 創造,發明
conceive 構想出
blue-sky thinking “藍天思考”,不著邊際的想法
problem-solver 善於解決問題的人

測驗與練習

1. 閱讀課文並回答問題。

1. What is the basic idea behind a challenge prize?

2. According to Marcus Shingles, what can be the problem with ‘experts’?

3. True or false: Challenge prizes have become popular only recently.

4. According to Tris Dyson, what is the danger of challenge prizes?

5. Which word in the text means ‘not planned or prepared’?

2. 請在不參考課文的情況下完成下列練習。選擇一個意思合適的單字填入句子的空格處。

1. It’s a good idea but I don’t think it will be cost-effective to make so we all need to _________ and come up with a new plan.

thinking blue-sky       think outside the box       lateral thinking       tunnel vision

2. You have 30 minutes to ______ the answer. You may begin your exam, now.

innovation       concept       overlook       come up with

3. Abstract ______ such as family, freedom and duty vary from culture to culture.

concepts       inventions       innovations       problem-solver

4. It was only once we had implemented the solution that it ______ we hadn’t anticipated.

spurred innovation       threw up issues       conceived       overlooked

5. It was only once we had implemented the solution that raised difficulties we had ______.

invented       overlooked       solved       conceived

答案

1. 閱讀課文並回答問題。

1. What is the basic idea behind a challenge prize?
You offer a problem up to everyone who believes they can solve it and present the first to do so with a prize.

2. According to Marcus Shingles, what can be the problem with ‘experts’?
The experts are usually the ones who say that there is no solution to a problem or that it can’t be done.

3. True or false: Challenge prizes have become popular only recently.
False. Challenge prizes were most popular during the 18th and 19th centuries, but have received renewed interest more recently.

4. According to Tris Dyson, what is the danger of challenge prizes?
According to Tris Dyson, creating a challenge prize incentivises people to solve a problem where there is no demand.

5. Which word in the text means ‘not planned or prepared’?
Impromptu. (The crowd acts like an impromptu think tank.)

2. 請在不參考課文的情況下完成下列練習。選擇一個意思合適的單字填入句子的空格處。

1. It’s a good idea but I don’t think it will be cost-effective to make so we all need to think outside the box and come up with a new plan.

2. You have 30 minutes to come up with the answer. You may begin your exam, now.

3. Abstract concepts such as family, freedom and duty vary from culture to culture.

4. It was only once we had implemented the solution that it threw up issues we hadn’t anticipated.

5. It was only once we had implemented the solution that raised difficulties we had overlooked.

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