Tapping in to the collective consciousness for fun & profit

Tonight I was reading the November 28th issue of Forbes magazine. I read an article that was an “aha!” and sent it off to someone I know that is leading strategy surrounding innovation and ideation at a company. Let me give you the two reasons why this happened to have hit me:

1) I’ve been observing many Web 2.0 developments on the internet with all these new startup companies who are getting-to-market with not-yet-finished products. Starting with Google’s release of Gmail (which *still* shows on their web site that it’s in “beta”) and moving to Yahoo 360 and many other web-based offerings, the new paradigm is to quickly prototype and release a product or idea and get the collective feedback of users. It’s working so well, everyone seems to be doing it.

Then I read the Forbes article entitled, “Collective Opinion” (registration required). It stated in part,

“For years toymaker Lego rarely strayed from peddling 100-piece building-block sets that typically sold for $15. That’s what customers were telling it to do–the customers participating in focus groups, that is. This venerable market-research tool puts a dozen ordinary folk in a room to talk about products while market experts listen in.

Yet a few years ago Lego unveiled a blockbuster product that was a radical departure from anything else in its 73-year history. The Star Wars Imperial Destroyer debuted in late 2002 as Lego’s largest and most expensive set ever, at 3,100 parts and a $300 price tag. Its first production run, planned to last a year, sold in less than five weeks.

This winner came out of a different sort of focus group, one with 10,000 players. These were Lego customers responding to an e-mailed invitation to participate in an online popularity contest for new product ideas. The participants saw short lists of proposed toys, six at a time, and clicked on the ones that sounded appealing. They’d rank their choices and, if they felt creative, suggest a new idea. These ideas were fed, in turn, to other customers for popularity scoring against the ideas from Lego’s own toy creators. The new suggestions, in turn, got creative juices flowing among still other players in the game. Virtual brainstorming, you could call it.”

2) What Lego has done (using a company called Informative‘s software) is to automate the collection of their customer’s wisdom and guidance and accelerate innovation. While it’s tough to “beta” finished goods like Lego produces (vs. an internet service, say, like Writely), tossing out ideas to customers enables a company to float many ideas and it’s the potential buyers that will help hone the product offering, modify or add to the prototype or concept, or even suggest new ones.

More and more leaders in companies are realizing the power of tapping in to the collective consciousness that is represented by millions of people jacked in to the global internet network. Imagine what’s going to happen as this brainpower is harnessed to solve problems, focus on need, suggest and recommend products and services and let their intentions known so organizations and governments can better predict behavior and respond faster. Fortunately, companies like Informative, Google, Technorati and others understand that this collective consciousness is there and are rapidly trying to figure out how to tap in to this thought-stream.

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About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

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