Crowdsource Innovation And Community Wastage

In 2008, Local Motors enabled anyone to submit designs for The Rally Fighter via their community (which was also their homepage).

The winner, Sangho Kim, pocked $10k for winning the competition. Further community competitions to design interiors, light bars, side vents, and more followed. The winners picked up between $500 and $2k. Hundreds more designs were submitted. The vehicle was launched within 12 months – likely a peacetime record.

Today, Local Motors has largely stopped manufacturing cars and derives most of its revenue by offering innovation as a service. Pay a fee and you get a community of 60k+ engineers suggesting ideas and helping solve your problems.

The problem is wastage. A quick browse of the site shows most projects have minimal levels of activity, most of the winners’ designs never get developed, and many of the designs overall are terrible.

You might suspect this shows the futility of platforms. Perhaps people simply aren’t good enough (or committed enough) to develop ideas that can succeed?

A better argument is all innovation, especially at the idea stage, contains a huge amount of wastage.

Ever held a brainstorm session and come up with 30 ideas? Were 29 of them a waste of time? Even bad ideas are useful to highlight which ideas are good. Wastage has its own value.

No, as with anything that relates to crowd activities, most projects will fail. Most ideas will be futile. What matters, however, is whether the good ideas make it all worthwhile.

Build this into everyone’s understanding of what a community feedback or crowdsource ideation effort means. It doesn’t mean every call for feedback hits the mark. It simply means that the really good ideas you get make all the failures worthwhile. It’s all part of the same process.

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