By Tim Matthews, September 30, 2013

Crowdsourced Innovation: Interview with Suzan Briganti – CrowdConf 2013 Featured Speaker


Suzan Briganti_Headshot In the month leading up to CrowdConf, we will be speaking with our presenters to get a glimpse of their background and motivations behind their talks. Suzan Briganti is founder and president of Totem Brand and an expert on crowd innovation. Her talk at the conference is “Things We Thought We Knew About Crowdsourcing.” — TM

CrowdFlower (CF): How did you get involved in crowdsourcing?

Susan Briganti (SB): Strangely, a French crowdsourcing company called Eyeka approached me to be their U.S. partner. They wanted to use crowds to source viral videos and asked me to target U.S. brands that were “social media laggards.” I had never heard of crowdsourcing but was intrigued. I took their offering to some of my colleagues in innovation and asked them what they thought. We started pretty close to the top of the Fortune 500, and there was immediate interest, and business. I developed some practices to refine the crowd ideas into a form that large companies are more accustomed to using when evaluating ideas. That became a killer combination — the raw diamonds and the testable propositions.

What exactly is crowdsourced innovation?

It’s the practice of engaging crowds to help accelerate the various steps in the innovation process, whether that is breakthrough innovation or commercial innovation or just re-vitalizing a business. We have applied crowd innovation all along the process: from the fuzzy front-end of innovation (“We think we have an opportunity here but are not sure what the potential is.”) to defining the offering (“We have this capability and don’t know what to do with it.”) to designing the product (“We have the use case and features, but how should it look/feel/work?”) to re-positioning brands, and even helping to market products, like creating ad campaigns.

How is that different from focus groups?

Oh my god, do not get me started. It’s different in every way.

First of all, the objectives are different, and the participants are very different.

In focus groups we usually recruit current users of the product, engage them in responding to a discussion guide, in a single 90-minute or so session in front of others. It’s reactive and very time-boxed. They’re paid to show up and eat the M&Ms. There’s little to no legal protection for the sponsor.

In crowdsourced innovation, we recruit very creative individuals. There is a short, stimulating brief and then they have several weeks to free associate about the problem. We get much deeper ideas, insights and divergent solutions as a result of the method and participants. They only earn if their idea wins a prize. So they’re incentivized to be amazing. And the terms and conditions agreement makes it clear who owns what.

Can you give a few examples of crowdsourced innovation? Any products people would recognize?

There is a new beer product coming out that we worked on, using crowd innovation. I can’t say much more, but the concepts scored in the top 20 percent on all key metrics globally.

There’s a new technology coming out in a few years that we worked on for one of the largest tech companies in the world. We crowdsourced use-cases across some 98 countries. This helped the client focus their resources on delivering the functionality most desired around the world.

Describe your typical day. Does working with a crowd change how you work?

Since we always interact via a web platform, I have a global job but can work from anywhere. My day often starts with a call with a client in a far-flung time zone — South Africa at the moment. I get my kids off to school and then work on analyzing crowd ideas when my brain is firing its best. I do admin stuff in the afternoon when I’m slowing down, then it’s back to family stuff until late when I check email and prep for the next day. Every day is different.

What’s the craziest idea you can remember getting from the crowd?

I don’t remember too many crazy ones, but I can remember some brilliant ones. Since they submitted the idea in confidence I probably can’t share them publicly here. But in the course of any innovation challenge, my mind is always blown — several times.

What do you do for fun when not innovating?

I turn off the computer, go outside, and do something that keeps me in the present, since my work hurls me toward the future. I ride my horse in the hills and appreciate how lucky I am to be alive at this time in history.