Peter Ryder, co-author of Crowdstorm: The Future of Innovation, Ideas, and Problem Solving
Here at Prompt we’re all committed PR and comms advocates, so we relish any innovative ideas designed to shake up markets, capture the attention of investors and prospects, and make a company stand out from even the toughest competitors.
While many companies still look inwardly for ideas and feedback from their own colleagues, growing numbers of successful innovations are now being driven by crowdsourcing; turning to the public for contributions in the form of thoughts, funding or critique.
This week, we caught up with Peter Ryder, a friend of Prompt and co-author of Crowdstorm: The Future of Innovation, Ideas, and Problem Solving. In this ‘Prompt interviews’ session, Jessica Branco of the Prompt Boston team caught up with Peter to discuss the opportunities, benefits and challenges of crowdsourcing, and to hear further details about his new book. It was also a chance to discuss why so many organizations from startups to Fortune 500 firms are now turning to crowdsourcing to share the wisdom of thousands of outsiders in uncovering new ideas and innovations.
Prompt Boston: Can you please tell us more about your background, and how you became interested in crowdsourcing?
Peter Ryder: I worked for many years as a consultant at Accenture, Computer Sciences Corporation and Deloitte Consulting helping clients improve their operations and their relationships with their customers by rethinking their processes and enabling these process changes through technology. I saw how organizations often sub-optimized their business by relying on assumptions that were no longer completely valid. Testing underlying assumptions was a first step to rethinking approaches to unlocking value. In 2010 I became President of jovoto, Inc., a start-up that connects companies who are looking for ideas with creative talent anywhere who have ideas. At that time, a number of companies were beginning to look seriously at crowdsourcing. With Web 2.0 really kicking in the mid to late 2000s massively reduced transaction costs tested why an organization needed to hire full time employees for all tasks — some jobs might be done by multiple people with expertise and perspective not found in the organization. Organizations like P&G, GE and LEGO were exploring how to access talent anywhere to help them work on some of their pressing challenges more rapidly. And new start-up companies like Quirky were building crowds into the very fabric of their business models. At jovoto, we worked on what processes, community management and technology needed to be in place for our customers to find innovative ideas using external talent. But we were also seeing a morphing of crowdsourcing from a simple focus on getting ideas from external talent to organizations developing more complex interactions with crowds asking them to do multiple tasks, not only selecting ideas but engaging with communities to get feedback on ideas and helping them select ideas. And, it was this interesting dynamic that led to writing the book.
What are the key benefits of crowdsourcing an idea, service or product?
What has been the most eye opening for companies with regards to benefits is that getting good ideas for a service or product is just the beginning. Of course outcomes are key: If your Super Bowl ad is ranked in the top 10 ads, by multiple metrics, many years in a row, your ad has succeeded; If your product is selling successfully and winning design awards, your design has succeeded. And if you find new partners that result in value-creating partnerships, you have succeeded in your business development efforts. In each of these cases, we found examples resulting from crowdstorming. These outcomes come from Pepsi, Quirky (a consumer electronics startup) and GE Ecomagination. But an additional benefit comes from providing a mechanism for evaluating ideas. Balanced with expert evaluation, you can ask crowds to help you vet the most promising ideas. LEGO gets lots of ideas from the crowd for new products. But it requires 10,000 votes from the LEGO community before the internal LEGO team will consider it for production. Finally, by posting a challenge to a crowd an organization can start a broad conversation that helps it pre-market a new product or service by turning idea creation into a conversation and a media event.
What is your advice to marketers who haven’t crowdsourced yet?
Do a little homework; look at some of the work that the organizations above have done. It is not necessary to start at Super Bowl scale. Choose a small project to test how your organization reacts to leveraging external talent. In the book we talk about the processes and some of the best approaches for doing crowdstorm projects; it is important to become familiar with these and see how they apply to your organization. If you feel like your organization would benefit from leveraging the skills of one of the many providers who are supporting crowdstorming, engage with them and tap into their experience, approaches and technology. Like any new approach, this requires that there is commitment from someone in the organization who can directly benefit from the outcome – make sure that sponsorship is in place. Finally, marketing departments who have existing relationships with traditional creative providers can weave them into the project if they choose. There are a number of different points where their expertise can help – from designing the brief to evaluating results.
How should marketers initially approach crowdsourcing?
As I said, education and sponsorship are critical to success. Determine the scope of the project you initially want to work on. Something well defined where the outcome can be measured or compared to a traditional approach can be helpful. For example, when Victorinox designed a new limited edition of Swiss Army knives using crowdstorming, they benchmarked sales of the new product against previous launches. They fixed as many variables as they could and found that the crowdstormed limited edition knife resulted in a 20% increase in sales. Marketers can also source a new campaign from a traditional provider and evaluate it against the same campaign sourced through crowdstorming as a test – the evaluation can come from experts and crowds in order to benchmark. There are many ways to get going.
Crowdstorm: The Future of Innovation, Ideas, and Problem Solving is now available at all major bookstores and Amazon.com. The book covers all topics of crowdsourcing, including patterns (search pattern, collaborative pattern), processes, recruitment, creative problem solving techniques, management of crowds, social media, analytics, evaluation and much more.