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Quirky’s Hybrid Innovation Crowdsourcing

There was a recent write-up about the innovation crowdsourcing company Quirky (warning: gated) that shows how the company has developed since it was named as one of the top inventions of 2014. I know I wrote about it back then, but I can’t remember where (and my usually reliable search engine is failing me on this one).

My Take

When Quirky started, the idea was pretty unique. It started with the typical innovation crowdsourcing model. Users would post ideas and the crowd would vote on which ones were worth pursuing. This established that there was a potential market (assuming functionality, quality, usability, and price issues could be addressed). Then the crowd would jump in again, making suggestions for how to make it better. Depending on the qualifications of the crowd, people might suggest materials, manufacturing techniques, functionality, and so on.

What set Quirky apart is that they would take the good ideas and pass them on to internal (professional) product developers. When prototypes were ready, they would go back to the crowd for live testing. This significantly increased the viability of the product that emerged and their product launch success rate. Venture capitalists liked that. So did retailers. Some of their products are pretty cool. Check out the examples if you have access to the Time article or check out Quirky’s website (this is not an ad for Quirky, we received no compensation for this article – I just think some of them are cool).

Quirky also has some partnerships with large companies that want to draw from Quirky crowd for specific ideas. Perhaps to fill a hole in their lineup or perhaps to find out what pain points their products have and ideas for eliminating them. User centered design at its best, right? It gets them outside of their groupthink.

Quirky maintains a large investment stake, which locks in its motivation into making sure that the process works and continues to improve. And having this two-track model (full crowdsourcing and corporate partner/crowdsourcing combo) spreads out its risk. It seems to work. Quirky products are available at 20,000 retailers and sold $50 million worth in 2014 (according to the Time article).

Your Turn

So what do you think of this as a form of user-centered design? On the pure crowdsourcing model? On the partnership plus crowdsourcing model?

And if you have a minute, share your favorite product. The “Porkfolio” has the best name. But the Align stapler seems like something that should have been invented years ago. The Stem spritzer should have been invented a century ago.

Image Credit: Quirky

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