Everyone who works for a large organization has to wonder about the amount of expertise in it that never gets used. Someone else in the company may have had to solve the exact same problem you're working on, and you may well never know, because there's no way to realize it or track down a person who could help. So there are all sorts of schemes that have been tried to make these connections, but I'm not sure if any of them actually work.
The ones I've seen are e-mail lists (for querying members of the rest of the department), attempts at occasional general-problem-solving meetings, various collaborative software packages, intra-company Wikipedia-type databases, and internal prediction markets. That covers a wide range, probably because these tools are being used against a pretty heterogeneous set of problems.
There's the specific-answer sort of query, such as "Has anyone taken this intermediate that we're all using and done X to it?". A broader form of this one is along the lines of "Does anyone know how to reduce an A group in the presence of a B?". Then there are historical questions, such as "Whatever happened to these Z kinds of compounds? Why did the team that was using them back in 1990 stop working on them?"
These, at least, probably only need to go to a certain list of people. Tougher are the problems where insights might come from anywhere in the company, and this is where the advertising copy for the software packages starts to wax lyrical. Then you have the wisdom-of-crowds approach, where you're not looking for a specific answer to a specific problem, but are interested in the opinions of a wide range of people on some question, hoping to find out more about it than you'd realize on your own. That's where the prediction market stuff comes in.
And I'm interested in the latter idea, although I can see some problems with it. For one thing, I'm pretty sure that you'd want to have anonymity as an option. If the Big Honcho proposes an idea, how many people will vote it down under their own names? (Although any Big Honcho should realize that some of the most valuable feedback they can get is when their own name and position aren't yet attached to a proposal). Then you have the whole participation problem - people have to feel that it's somehow worth their time to use these things. Depending on free-floating altruism is, in my experience, not going to work out very well (and I'm not so sure how it worked out for Blanche DuBois in the end, either).
And with any of these systems, you have to be sure that you're asking the right questions, in the right format, to the right people. A prediction-market question inside a company on the lines of "When do you think we're going to file the NDA for Compound X?" doesn't seem all that useful, because there are only a few people really in a position to know (and they're not supposed to talk about it). But it would be interesting to put up the best screening hits for a nascent program, or the three or four most advanced compounds for a later-stage one, and throw the question open to the whole company of which ones they think are best. You'd want to track the results, though, to see if your crowd has any particular wisdom or not.
I think that the line you're trying to walk with such systems is the one between solidifying groupthink and getting past it. To that end, I'd recommend (in many cases) that people not be able to see how the voting is going while it's in progress, for fear that some participants would just jump on one bandwagon or another to save time. But I have to think that if, say, Pfizer had asked more people about the prospects for Exubera (their catastrophic inhaled-insulin product), that it might have given them the ghost of a clue that there was a chance for failure. (Or maybe not!)
Of course, now that I think about it, Pfizer has one of the more widely publicized internal idea-and-prediction-sharing efforts in the industry. (Lilly is also known for talking about this sort of thing). And I'd be interested in people who have actually experienced these, or those in other shops. Have you ever gotten any use out of these things? Or is it just something that sounds good on paper?