4/5 - (1 vote)

idea commodities

Forbes.com published a piece this week by Jez Frampton titled Crowdsourcing: Is There Wisdom in a Mob?. In the article, Frampton discusses the crowdsourcing of ideas as part of a business model. In particular, he postulates that …

„From the perspective of the brand owner, ideas, in their broadest terms, are becoming a commodity.“

This is an interesting perspective on ideas which I had not heard before. However, I believe the perspective is flawed, as I explained in the comment that I posted:

There is certainly no wisdom to be found in crowds! Shakespeare showed that in Julius Caesar back in 1599. The claim that ideas are a commodity is provocative, but does no hold up. After all, the definition of a commodity is that different offers are indistinguishable from each other (that is why you can buy them at a commodities exchange.) I do not believe that one idea is indistinguishable from another in the way that one ton of pork bellies is indistinguishable from another. I think it would be more accurate to say that ideas can be mass-produced, which was not the case before the internet. As with anything else in life, you get what you pay for, and if you are not paying much for ideas, you shouldn’t be surprised at the quality of the ideas you receive. Just take a look at „top“ results at any of the idea platforms out there and you will see what I mean.

Crowdsourcing is the latest fad in the innovation industry, and many companies are setting up internet portals for collecting ideas from the public. This is often, but erroneously, referred to as Open Innovation. As one commenter on the Forbes.com site pointed out, crowdsourcing generates the new problem of finding the needle (the good idea) in a haystack. Unfortunately, while everyone knows what a needle looks like, it is far less clear how to quickly recognise a good idea when it is surrounded by hundreds of other ideas.