The Crowd as a Strategic Partner

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In this post, Ana Roveri talks about the role of the consumer in an innovation oriented business. In the lead up to their Degree Show, the MAIM Class of 2015 shares their individual perspectives of the Morphogenesis as an Innovation Manager.

A very good analysis made by Tom Goodwin showed that, Uber is the largest taxi company, but owns no vehicle. Facebook is the most popular media owner, but creates no content. Airbnb is the largest accommodation provider, but owns no real state. What do these companies have in common? The role of the consumer as we know it is changing, and these companies have embraced change by adapting the way their customers engage with their brand. The ability to foresee these changes and use them as opportunities is central to the role of the Morphogenesis as an Innovation Manager. In doing so, the Morphogenesis breaks the boundaries between seemingly different worlds, forming new and meaningful relations that lead to disruptive innovation.

My research discusses the role of the consumer and the crowd in fostering disruptive innovation. It aims to understand the impact of this emergent culture of sharing, participating and collaborating.

Even though it is a highly risky approach to innovation, a high level of outside collaboration has shown to be successful when implemented and executed the right way. In this innovation scenario and opportunities, the online community is becoming the main partner for many organisations – from start-ups to established companies. By incorporating the wisdom of the crowd into their creative process, entrepreneurs are challenging established business models, which rely on its internal R&D team to create new products for the consumer. Traditionally this process involves very little to no interaction with the consumer, with the exception of their marketing research. Instead, several companies are now turning to the crowd, expecting innovative ways to solve problems. With great potential for innovation, this movement has enabled people who were once passive consumers to increasingly connected and engaged with the products that are meaningful to them.

Now organisations are investing in turning their consumers into creative partners. In this case, the relationship between the organisation and the ‘crowd’ is a deliberate blend of a bottom-up, open, and creative process, with top-down organisational goals. As the movement gets stronger, despite an organisation not believing in engagement with the crowd to foster innovation, it is likely their competitors will disagree (Boudreau & Lakhani, 2013). Moreover, it has been identified that crowdsourcing can reach its greatest potential when the object to be crowdsourced benefits the crowd and creates value in society, as opposed to only benefiting the company selling the product. This twist has the potential to drive the future of crowdsourcing.

One of the biggest challenges of the Innovation Manager is to be able foresee these changes and use them as opportunities. They need to speak both languages: Design & Creativity and Business. The role of the Morphogenesis is to strategically break the boundaries between these two different worlds. To be able to deal with the constant changes we face everyday, there is an increasing need for professionals who are at the edge of both worlds. Equipped with the ability to connect cross-disciplinary ideas and creatively turn problems into opportunities, they can foster innovation. As an Innovation Manager, it is important to understand and facilitate this new and meaningful relationship between consumers, products and organisations.

To learn more about the Morphogenesis and Ana’s research, stay tuned for the upcoming MAIM 2015 Degree Show, taking place at Central Saint Martins in the week starting on the 23rd of June.

*Lakhani, B. and Boudreau, K. (2013) Using the Crowd as an Innovation Partner [Internet]. Available from: [Accessed 8 November 2014].