Open innovation is a process becoming increasingly popular for corporate R&D. It’s cost-effective and faster than internal processes. It also increases the volume of ideas submitted from people who have no stake in the internal politics of large R&D departments. Handled correctly it can speed up the time it takes to turn a concept into a tangible product ready for market.
The toy maker Mattel has decided to work with the crowdsourced idea generation platform Genius Crowd to find innovative new ideas from individual inventors for its Hot Wheels and Barbie-branded bicycles. Genius Crowds has not yet put together a large stable of corporate advocates, so this is a big step forward for the new startup (2010).
Genius Crowds, an online crowd competition site, circulates calls for proposals and helps its corporate partners identify innovative ideas. Bringing the ideas to the market involves licensing and royalties for the successful submitter.
Genius Crowds sorts out the top ideas using community voting and critiques from experts in the field. This process offers idea submitters the ability to incorporate feedback into the design and improve it before moving into the final round of competition.
The ability to refine ideas and incorporate feedback is essential to improve the value, aesthetics and positioning of the product. The number of iterations has a definite effect on the quality…the more refinement, the better the product.
Click here to view the submissions that made it to the final round for the Mattel challenge at Genius Crowds .
- GeniusCrowds.com is based on a membership model. Members vote ideas “on” or “off the island”. The top ideas earn prizes and a chance at a licensing deal. GeniusCrowds.com pitches the leading ideas to its corporate partners. A Leaderboard recognizes the top idea contributors even if they don’t win prizes or licensing. The ones that make it into stores earn royalties for their creators. While still at the early stages in their development, GeniusCrowds.com points to several individuals who have earned between a hundred and a thousand dollars using their site.
Each member gets 3 votes to tell marketers which products they would buy. Crowd favorites receive gift cards and a chance to move on to the next step–possible deal for manufacturing with a corporate client. Genius Crowd uses a new “theme” each month to keep the content fresh. The theme for August was ‘Summertime.’ A new competition launches every month.
Here are the criteria GeniusCrowds.com uses to judge ideas:
Marketability: Will the product fill an unmet need? Can it be sold at a reasonable price?
Mainstream Appeal: How wide of an audience does the product appeal to? Did it receive strong support through commenting and feedback in the community?
Competition: Do any similar products already exist? Is this idea different or better?
Manufacturing: Is the product quick and simple to produce? Can it be efficiently engineered and manufactured?
Innovation (the “Genius” factor!): Does your idea truly provoke the statement… “I wish I’d thought of that!”
I have always been a staunch critic of crowdsourced design sites like 99designs.com because it cheapens the design process and reduces “branding” to simply a slick piece of type…put a shiny highlight on the top and a reflection underneath…and you’re ready to go.
- The people who source their design on these sites are never going to be good (read: profitable) clients for designers anyway because they do not value design or recognize the importance of collaboration between client and designer. The problem lies partly in the fact that the low end of the market in the design field is disappearing. Coupled with an increased sophistication on the part of buyers and downward pressure on prices due to foreign and online competition, the result is a perfect storm. There is no shortage of people who are willing to work for free. This model works because there are many people who are unemployed, are students, or are hobbyist.
Crowdsourcing isn’t going to go away…it’s growing in importance.
Its validity as a method for creating a large number of potential solutions is proven every day by sites like these two. The truth is that these sites exist because they serve a legitimate need. They point to a larger problem in design (graphic, industrial, product design, interiors, and architecture). It is a very expensive process with the majority of potential clients in small business not seeing the value or unable to afford.
Design is billed by the hour…which has no correlation to the value that is produced. It took the same amount of time to create the Nike logo as it does to create any other student logo project. The value is in the intellectual property, not the hours it takes to create it. The value builds over time with an investment in a solid branding platform.
In design, it highlights a larger problem. Clients are unhappy with the number of potential solutions they receive from designers. This is indicative that a greater number of solutions need to be generated up front for consideration and that designers need to find more efficient ways of doing this. Crowdsourcing sites are a wake-up call for design.