So crowdsourcing works: Now what?

crowd in streetThe practice of “open innovation” or “crowdsourcing” – reaching beyond your company walls into your extended ecosystem of partners and customers to generate new and innovative product ideas – has flourished with the emergence of Web 2.0 technologies.

Utilities like Facebook, Innovation Exchange, InnoCentive and LinkedIn (among others) have made it easy to capture the “wisdom of the crowd.”

The past few years have witnessed myriad successes from crowdsourcing initiatives, including:

  • Pepsi successfully conducted a crowdsourcing initiative in 2007 to design a new Pepsi can.
  • Netflix has an ongoing crowdsourcing initiative called Netflix Prize for the best collaborative filtering algorithm that predicts user ratings for films.
  • P&G maintains a dedicated online community called “Connect & Develop” to manage its open innovation efforts.  To date, P&G’s Connect + Develop strategy already has resulted in more than 1,000 active agreements.  And more than 50 percent of product initiatives at Procter & Gamble involve significant collaboration with outside innovators.   P&G Connect & Develop

Now that we have figured out how to tap the “wisdom of the crowd,” what’s next?

For consumer products companies, the challenge now is to connect these upstream crowdsourcing systems with downstream product design, simulation, manufacturing and market execution systems.  After all, what’s the value of all those innovative ideas from your crowd if they ultimately don’t help you win in market?  Or if you can’t manufacture them?

In my role as a product strategist for Dassault Systèmes, I am helping consumer products companies meet this challenge by integrating previously-disconnected “downstream” product design and execution tools with upstream Web 2.0-style crowdsourcing tools to form a holistic Social Innovation solution.

This includes a lifelike design mashup tool for rapid prototyping and a lifelike virtual shopping tool that simulates consumer interaction with concept products in retail environments without having to develop expensive, physical prototypes.

As a result, consumer products companies can now quickly and easily weed out ideas that either won’t win with consumers at the shelf, or can’t be easily manufactured before they get into the later, more cost-intensive stages of the new product development process.  This ensures precious time and energy are focused on developing winning ideas.

Further, by providing a seamless solution that tracks a product from “crowdsourced” idea all the way through market launch and retirement, we can feed actual performance metrics from in-market products back into the front end of innovation to continually refine your idea pipeline and focus your crowdsourcing efforts on winning ideas.

We all know that it’s not good enough to simply innovate faster than your competition; we need to innovate better and smarter as well.

What are your ideas for better connecting upstream crowdsourcing activity with downstream product design and execution?