The rapid exchange of data necessary to maintain competitive enterprise operations demands access to multiple, fluid sources of information. Crowdsourcing uses the input of individuals external to an organization to resolve strategic problems or complete tasks once assigned internally to an explicit corporate individual or department. Widely-dispersed contributors acquired through an open call for participation pinpoint data or offer opinions essential to achieving a specific objective for a designated problem. Open innovation for new products is also encouraged. Crowdsourcing participants encompass a population from everywhere, with all backgrounds; today’s mobile functionality has made the potential assembly of contributors truly global in scope (see Figure 1).
Five companies using crowdsourcing to their advantage.
Anheuser-Busch (AB)– The world’s leading brewer, AB has made sizable inroads in crowdsourcing. While its Budweiser is easily America’s best-selling beer, AB sought customer input to develop a brand more attuned to craft-beer tastes. Development of Black Crown, a golden amber lager, combined a competition between company-brewmasters with consumer suggestions and tastings; this project had more than 25,000 consumer-collaborators. In Brazil, where AB markets the leading brand, Skol, it has opened PopTent, a crowdsourced video-production company specializing in TV-commercials, utilizing a social network of 35,000 videographers from 120 nations. AB’s site offers potential collaborators open innovation opportunities with the firm.
Coca-Cola– Well-known for keeping secret the formula of its most famous beverage, Coke now uses a more open business model, assuming an increasingly prominent position in corporate crowdsourcing. Its open-sourced “Shaping a Better Future” challenge asks entrepreneurs to create improvement-ventures for the project-hubs of youth employment, education, environment and health. In addition, its “Where Will Happiness Strike Next?” series of short films and TV-commercials relies on the social media-input of Coke customers, contributing ideas about creating happiness. Coke also seeks crowdsourced online suggestions for marketing its products more effectively, once again tying social media to co-creation.
General Mills (GenMil)– This major food-processing firm has created the General Mills Worldwide Innovation Network (G-WIN) to vigorously generate innovative concepts from crowdsourced partners in a variety of merchandise, commodity, or service categories. Included are:
(1) products fitting the GenMil-brand concept,
(2) packaging of those products,
(3) improvements to manufacturing, service or marketing processes,
(4) ingredient-suggestions for food products,
(5) technology-suggestions for GenMil’s IT-processes, and
(6) concepts for improving the firm’s digital efficiencies and performance.
GenMil seeks ideas that help the firm deliver breakthrough innovation in any of these operational areas. The G-Win open call is sufficiently accommodating that anyone can go to the website, and click the “Submit a Novel Proposal“ tab to suggest product or technology innovation useful to GenMil and its businesses.
Nokia– Like most crowdsourcing ventures, Nokia’s Ideasproject defines itself as a global community devoted to open innovation. It focuses on consumer-derived collaboration across 210 nations to improve the viability of Nokia products in all markets. The Ideasproject is valuable because it draws on the consumer-experiences of participant-innovators to generate new ideas about the kind of products they seek from Nokia. Crowdsourcing participants are enabled, becoming their own agents of product-design. Current crowdsourced innovations can be examined, and new ideas offered. Nokia shares revenues generated from crowdsourced ideas with Ideasproject participants.
Unilever– Despite its globally-recognized and respected research staff and facilities, Unilever understands the value of collaboration with innovative partners from outside the firm. It seeks external contributions from anyone with useful input into such diverse project challenges as storing renewable energy, fighting viruses, reducing the quantity of sodium in food, creating cleaningg-products that pollute less, and changing consumer behavior to encourage enhanced sustainability, among many other projects. The firm invites crowdsourced, open innovation submissions at its “Challenges and Wants: Submit a technical solution to us via our Open Innovation“ portal.
Calling for crowdsourced ideas, information, opinions and analyses has emerged as a viable and enriched resource of enterprise-data. It is rapidly becoming a procedure of choice for generating innovative solutions issues for a vast range of corporate and societal issues.