Why The Crowd Is The Ultimate Creativity Engine

Why The Crowd Is The Ultimate Creativity Engine

Crowd-led platforms are providing support and inspiring co-creation with brands, generating programs work towards the collective good.

  • 19 february 2014

PSFK has partnered with real-estate crowdfunding company Prodigy Network to crowdsource the designs for their most recent project 17Johnan innovative hotel in the heart of New York City’s Financial District. This series of articles provides inspiration for readers wishing to be a part of the project and join the crowd in designing the first Cotel.

The power of the crowd is an idea that continues to gain momentum thanks to the expansion and maturation of digital channels that bring people together around common interests and causes. Platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo who have created the opportunity for a passionate fan base to express themselves about the issues that are most important to them, offering rewards and recognition to all participants.Similarly, as companies and brands demonstrate a greater willingness to get involved, they are finding new ways to tap into their audience for ideas, financial support and buy-in at different stages of the innovation pipeline. Co-creation in this sense becomes more than a catchy buzzword, allowing companies to bring products and services to market which they know will resonate with consumers for the collective benefit of all.

For some companies, the scale of the crowd offers an opportunity to breathe life into creative assets already in the company’s possession. A number of brands have released what was once considered proprietary information to the crowd and allowed their fans to innovate beyond it. For example, GE and social product development company Quirky have partnered to enable anyone to get involved in the development of new products. GE will open thousands of its patents and new technologies to the Quirky community through a dedicated microsite. The hope is that these patents will inspire new ideas by using the original schematics as sources of inspiration.


A challenge for anyone involved in the innovation space is bringing solutions to the market that they know will be readily adopted by consumers. Responding to this, companies are finding new ways to tap into the knowledge of the crowd before their products even reach the assembly line. Nordstrom‘s Innovation Lab took this idea directly to their customers by implementing a series of one-week prototyping sessions inside its stores. Lab team members were able to quickly iterate products concepts and get feedback from consumers in real use-case situations and environments. In an attempt to overcome slow and unreliable corporate initiatives, the innovation lab was set up at 9AM everyday and discusses the week’s tasks on the store’s showroom floor. The innovation team interviewed managers, sales associates and customers before creating a rough design and program to test in a store, while customer and associate usability testing helps refine the final concept and design.

The internet serves as an evergreen source of inspiration, but with so much noise, it’s often difficult to separate the best thinking and most relevant ideas from the pack. Innovators have begun thinking about how to consolidate idea sharing on the web to allow brands to cherry pick the best ones according to their needs. UK-based Public Scroll is an online space where ideas can be submitted by anyone for brands to acquire. When a brand finds one it’s interested in, it can purchase and claim that idea and the Public Scroll’s team will help develop a detailed digital solution to meet the brand’s specific needs. The creator of the idea, meanwhile, earns half the price paid by the brand. Companies looking for something in particular can also submit a brief requesting a bespoke digital solution, which will be answered by the community. By creating an open platform for hosting the exchange of ideas, individuals are rewarded for their participation while brands benefit from outside inspiration.


Within the financing space, crowdfunding models have evolved their offerings to appeal to a wider range of investors. A number of these platforms are going a step beyond collaborative investing, by giving individual stakeholders a say in the company’s decisions. Websites like CrowdBrewed, BrewDog and CraftFund not only allow fans to own a share their favorite craft brewery, but also have a say in how the brewery is managed. Investors also receive exclusive deals and invites to events, giving fans a way to get involved even further into the community.

Crowd-led platforms are helping companies rethink everything from their ideation process, models of financial development, and innovation pipeline, adding a layer of intelligence at different stages. Co-creation works towards the collective benefit, helping companies bring products and services to the market that they know will have a positive impact, and resonate more deeply with their customers. Based on these successful strategies, we look forward to seeing the ideas generated by the crowd for the Cotel in New York City.

Contributed by Tim Ryan.

These platforms should provide inspiration for design teams looking to participate in the competition to create the first Cotel in New York City.

Prodigy Network is known as a pioneer in crowdfunding for real estate. In 2009—after more than 29 projects—Prodigy Network developed an innovative investment  model for crowdfunding in real estate, becoming the world’s leading platform in the field. By doing so, Prodigy introduced a way of democratizing investment opportunities for large-scale projects. Prodigy Network believes that community and transparency are essential to success in real estate.

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