Crowdsourcing isn’t always evil

I still think there is something terribly predatory about the crowdsourcing sites that ask designers from all over the world to essentially buy a lottery ticket in exchange for their design ideas. And of course the prize in these lotteries amounts to a pittance in most cases.

But, after reading a NY Times piece by Steven Johnson the author of a new book, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, I could be convinced that in some cases the “cloud” has been a great place for innovation. He mentions several instances where innovative ideas have been generated by collaborative teams, and points out,

“The wonders of modern life did not emerge exclusively from the proprietary clash between private firms. They also emerged from open networks.”

He notes 4 quadrants that innovation normally comes from; the solo entrepreneur, the amateur individual, private corporations, and lastly collaborative, nonproprietary innovation networks like the internet.

One really wonderful example of this collaborative idea fostered by a design organization is OpenIDEO. What they call,

“a place where people design better, together for social good. It’s an online platform for creative thinkers: the veteran designer and the new guy who just signed on, the critic and the MBA, the active participant and the curious lurker. Together, this makes up the creative guts of OpenIDEO.”

But notice the words, “for social good”. IDEO is helping the world community solve some tough design and innovation challenges in a way that does not interfere with the authors of innovation in the first three quadrants mentioned above. Nor their ability to protect and profit from their ideas.

This OpenIDEO model of using the cloud to create change for social good, is very different from the for-profit crowdsourcing sites, hosting design competitions with virtually no compensation to any of the participants, all for the benefit of a for-profit client who is too cheap or too lazy to hire a qualified design firm themselves.

And this open innovation concept from IDEO certainly supports their vision as an innovative and socially aware organization. Two things that the for-profit crowdsourcing community could never be accused of.

The wonderful illustration above is by James Yang for the NY Times


About Richard Shear

designer, husband, teacher, blogger, father, athlete, author, historian Richard has over 25 years of brand identity and package design experience, with a wide range of clients such as Ahold, Coca-Cola, Hasbro, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Pernod Ricard and Procter & Gamble. He began his career working with the legendary advertising art director, and AIGA Medalist, George Lois and the British design manager Clive Chajet. In his next design management position at Lippincott & Margulies, he worked with Walter Margulies learning the complex skills of global corporate identity. He then became Creative Director and Partner at Peterson & Blyth, one of the premier brand identity and package design firms of the time. He is a founding faculty member of the Masters in Branding Program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. He publishes the blog The Package Unseen, and has been a guest lecturer at colleges including FIT, Trinity College and Tyler School of Art. He is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Richard is a Board member of the AIGA MetroNorth Chapter, past President of AIGA‘s Brand Design Association, President of the Package Design Council and a member of its Board of Directors. He is a member of USA Cycling and US Rowing, a nationally ranked masters bicycle racer, and a member of The Saugatuck Rowing Club, the 2010 Masters Club National Champion.
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