Crowdsourcing new product ideas works, research shows

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(Image via theamateurprofessional.blogspot.com)

In the latest issue of the Journal of Product Innovation Management, you’ll find an article titled The Value of Crowdsourcing: Can Users Really Compete with Professionals in Generating New Product Ideas (you’ll find an earlier working version here). We already blogged about the fact that creative consumers could have better ideas than lead-users in some cases… well the present paper proves that consumers can make very interesting contributions too! « Crowdsourcing might constitute a promising method to gather user ideas that can complement those of a firm’s professionals at the idea generation stage in NPD« , the authors say.

The crowdsourcing process generated user ideas that score significantly higher in terms of novelty and customer benefit, and somewhat lower in terms of feasibility (Poetz & Schreier, 2012)

The authors, researchers at the Copenhagen Business School (Denmark) and Bocconi University (Italy), wanted to find out how attractive new product ideas generated by ordinary people through a crowdsourcing process would be, compared to new product ideas generated professionals employed by a company. It is widely recognized in innovation literature that « firms that rely too heavily on their internal expertise might be blocked from finding alternative, potentially more successful solutions« , but it has not been proven that crowdsourcing works well neither… To do this, the researchers found an Austrian baby-products company called MAM, who accepted to launch an idea generation contest on their website – in parallel to their internal regular idea generation process.

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All ideas where evaluated by the CEO and the head of R&D of Mam Baby Products. The source of the ideas was not disclosed to the reviewer

After all ideas had been rated by the company’s experts, the authors could prove the following points about the efficiency of crowdsourcing:

  • Ideas created by professionals scored significantly lower in terms of novelty than ideas created by users
  • Professional ideas were attributed significantly lower customer benefit compared with user ideas
  • Ideas created by professionals tended to be significantly easier to realize

As the authors say, « these findings are quite counterintuitive from the perspective of the classic [innovation] literature » because firms usually listen to users about their needs, but not about the solutions that they might have to satisfy these needs. As Poetz & Schreier found out, « crowdsourcing among users might complement the work of a firm’s professionals in the idea generation stage of NPD« . This is the premise of crowdsourcing and co-creation: involve consumers early to get authentic feedback and creative solutions to problems. This study adds to a body of evidence and research showing that collaboration with consumers can deliver value in new product development.

About Yannig

Yannig was Marketing Manager at eYeka, responsible for PR, communication and research. Interested in marketing, innovation and design-related topics, he also loves to free his head by cycling, running, reading or drawing. Yannig, who holds an MSc from ESSCA School of Management and a PhD from University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, tweets under @YannigRoth and blogs at www.yannigroth.com
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