Goldrush @ the Goldcorp Challenge

Goldcorp, Inc.

Gold mining is an old industry, a tired industry. The pace of change is glacial. Traditionally, mining companies have worried about how strong your back is, not how big your brain is. We wanted to do something that no one in the industry had done, to tap into the intellectual capital of the whole world.

-Rob McEwen, Former Chairman and CEO, Goldcorp, Inc.

Rob McEwen was working hard on the project he had at hand- recent purchase of a mine known for low productivity. His gut feelings told him that there was an untapped potential in the Red Lake district mine. This was located adjacent to the relatively productive Campbell Lake mine that was known for a rich harvest the previous year.

He allotted $10 million to geologists in order to find some decent amount of yellow metal somewhere below his 55,000 acre site. After a specific amount of time, the team struck gold, literally. 9 of the holes the team had drilled, had ore concentrations 30 times the amount Red Lake mine was currently producing. Believe me, it had to be a “Eureka!” moment for everyone then.

Now there was another issue to be resolved. Goldcorp, Inc. had to understand the amount of gold beneath them. And they had to get it all out in the best possible manner. It was then, taking a break from hectic & stressful work, Rob (a science & technology enthusiast) decided to spend a week at MIT in the company of a delegation of other CEOs and presidents. They were all there to learn about the trends in Information Technology. The week-long program focused on Linux and open-source software. The more Rob learnt about this, the more intrigued he became.

People didn’t have to work for his company, he realized, in order to work with his company.

And it came to him like a thunderbolt. Despite the world calling them crazy; Goldcorp, Inc. gathered all Red Lake mine details and posted them online- 50 years worth of maps, reports and raw geological information- along with software that displayed the data in 2D and 3D. They then invited scientists and engineers from across the world to suggest a solution- a drilling plan to be submitted to Goldcorp. It would then convene a blue-ribbon panel of judges to evaluate the submissions. The goal: It would help the company find its next 6 million ounces of gold. Prize of $500,000 was to be divided among 25 semifinalists and 3 finalists chosen by the judges.

“The Goldcorp Challenge” turned out to be a huge success, in spite of initial resistance and Rob’s horrified colleagues. More than 1400 qualified participants (‘online prospectors’, as the Challenge termed them) downloaded the information and more than 140 of them crunched the numbers. Several years after the completion of the Challenge, Goldcorp was still drilling  targets identified by the winners.

The company had discovered a new way to discover gold.

 

It often helps to be one. As the authors, of the book I’m referring to, put it- “Great leaders are insatiable learners, sharing values beats selling value & being different makes all the difference!”

cheers

[Reference: Mavericks at Work by William C. Taylor & Polly LaBarre]

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