Evolution of Crowdsourced Innovation

The end of crowdsourced innovation as we know it? Maybe we just need to think a bit more about how crowdsourcing can be used as part of an innovation program, and where it can really add value.

Crowdsourcing, at least publicly, used to be about widening the net of people you could effectively brainstorm with. Rather than confining the product or service development to a group of core experts, you opened it up to a range of people – each with different expertise and experience. That logic still holds for some companies.

More recently crowdsourcing has moved to a crowdfunding model. While the difference might be in the the focus of the outcome (more ideas, as against enabling implementation), there is a more profound shift in why this would be the case. Kickstarter projects these days are basically ready to enter mass production, or fully formed ideas in their own right. The time has passed for the crowd to get involved in refining the idea because on crowdfunding platforms the ideas need to be saleable. People need to understand the idea, and how it might benefit them or others. In other words, competitive pressure has now meant that ideas need to be very well polished before they get put up on a crowdfunding platform.

Companies need to follow the same evolutionary pattern. Typically, you start off with a problem capturing ideas. Then you become very good at that, and the problem becomes filtering those ideas into ones that work. Crowdsourcing and crowdfunding can be very powerful tools, but make sure you are using the appropriate tools to address the weaknesses in your innovation agenda. What may be appropriate for your organisation now might not be appropriate down the track, as the bottlenecks will shift.

Before implementing crowdsourcing, get to know your innovation culture. That will tell you where on the evolutionary path you are, and find a solution to match the need. It’s not the end of crowdsourced innovation, but the beginning of its evolution.