Invite a crowd into your project

Informed by recent projects with Tesco and Unilever I discussed the benefits and implications of crowd sourcing in a joint presentation with Eyeka in London last week.

I concluded that there is a compelling case for inviting the crowd into most ideation projects (which enables faster and more ambitious idea development internally).

In addition to cost-effectively and quickly recruiting more contributors the mechanics of crowd sourcing support distinct ideas. Individual idea generation via ‘brain writing’ (avoiding group alignment) encourages wider, more diverse ideas.  Also, people without new stimulus, exhaust new ideas very quickly – so accessing a small amount of creative time from lots of people with different references makes a lot of sense.

In recent years the power of the crowd has contributed to neuroscience development, the discovery of new solar systems, new business models (e.g. Minted) and urban traffic management.  It has also supported highly engaging communication – consider Doritos’s Crash the Super Bowl challenge or Land Rover Discovery’s 25th anniversary film:

Both these examples remind us that crowd sourcing success is based on the handful of  winning ingredients that can be added and developed further. Many ideas will be discarded, but the odds of finding distinct winning solutions increases.

The crowd sourcing options available are expanding too. R&D, IT and creative activities that are not dependent on internal expertise can now be confidently outsourced.


The fast availability of external ideas has implications for internal activity that follows. Firstly, the focus for internal collaboration is shifting from generating to building ideas. It is not surprising that concept statements have been displaced with Lean Business Models in a number of recent workshops. Sponsors want to quickly build (and test) ideas that can compete with alternatives and that they can deliver with a business model advantage.

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Secondly, crowd sourcing requires establishing early opportunities to embrace external challenges.  A pattern across multiple ideas may indicate a strategic area that has been overlooked,  customer service design need not be limited by existing customer experience and your next communications brief can be informed by ideas as well insights.  Fast and quick ideas can stress test assumptions before expensive internal resource is committed.

Inviting the right crowd into your next innovation project needs to be combined with an enthusiasm for external challenge.  For those hesitating, it is worth considering the words of Yochai Benkler, author of “The Wealth of Networks” below:

“The world is becoming too fast, too complex and too networked for any company to have all the answers inside.” Yochai Benkler

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