External sources of open innovation: prosumers and crowdsourcing
The most important change taking place in value chains is being brought about by end consumers. They are no longer passive. They do their own research and offer recommendations of companies and the products they offer.
In the last decades, consumers have become prosumers (producers-consumers). They have become organized and share information, exchange and develop tools and methods. Just think, for instance, of the tuning culture that the automobile industry is only now beginning to take advantage of. Thanks, above all, to the Internet, normal people now have the ability to innovate and create value in the global scene. In times of crisis, things can look a little dark but… why not transform what are perceived as new threats into opportunities to improve our value proposition and competitiveness?
Innovation is one of the ways in which we adapt and improve our competitiveness. And traditionally, companies have entrusted their innovation to “R+D departments”. This source of innovation is, however, often costly and insufficient (which does not mean it is not necessary or effective). We mustn’t forget that 65% of prosumers wish to maintain a bidirectional relationship with the companies that offer them products and services, not only provide feedback, but also truly contribute. Thanks to Web 2.0, characterized by the creation of communities in which content is provided and valued by users, we find ourselves in a situation in which we can use all of this talent and “wisdom of the crowd” in our favor.
If in the last decades we have learnt to use outsourcing, the new century has brought a new paradigm of externalization in innovation: crowdsourcing.
Crowdsourcing is achieved by taking advantage of ideas by the crowd. Something that, as explained some years ago by Surowiecky in his book “The wisdom of crowds”, can produce better results, if used correctly, than costly internal teams of experts. The idea consists, grosso modo, of counting on a motivated crowd that we can simply listen to or, better still, to whom we can suggest problems and motivate by offering rewards to whoever solves the problems advanced. This makes it possible to substitute selective contracts and specific training with massive voluntary participation. This principle has already been applied successfully through ideas networks such as Procter & Gamble’s Connect & Develop, Dell ideastorm, Lilly’s Innocentive or ideas4all‘s ideas4all innovation agora.