Testing the Limits with John Winsor

Posted by Connie French on Dec 1, 2009 12:00:27 PM

John WinsorA guest blog post by Jennifer Moebius, uTest

Having grilled some of the top minds in the software business, this installment of Testing the Limits will deviate slightly from the norm. With us this month is John Winsor – author, entrepreneur and crowdsourcing expert.

After a successful career as a journalist and magazine publisher, John founded Radar Communications in 1998, where he implemented a variety of academic-based market intelligence tools to help some of the country’s most progressive companies learn from key voices in their communities. Today, he offers that same advice as the VP/Executive Director of Strategy and Product Innovation at Crispin, Porter + Bogusky.

John has written extensively on the subject of crowdsourcing, having published the popular 2005 book Spark: Be more Innovative through Co-Creation. With his latest book Baked In: Creating Products and Businesses That Market Themselves now hitting the shelves, John was kind enough to sit down with us to discuss the future of crowdsourcing, the premise of his new book, and the best (or worst) rock-climbing movies of all-time.

uTest: The hottest debate in crowdsourcing right now is the “fall” of traditional advertising or design firms and the “rise” of crowdsourced services. In your opinion, what does the future of crowdsourcing look like? Is the world ready for what you call the “digital tsunami?”

JW: Well the future of crowdsourcing is definitely bright, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions in people’s minds. Those who are skeptical of crowdsourcing question its ability to truly connect people. With crowdsourcing, you no longer have all of these professionals working together in the same building – that alone is often too much for some people to come to terms with. The idea of a crowd aggregating to solve business problems in a virtual environment is entirely new to most people, even though the underlying trend has been developing for years. The difference now is that it simply can’t be ignored.

uTest: So you see crowdsourcing as eventually obtaining mainstream acceptance?

JW: Absolutely. People are starting to see the full potential of this model, especially on the client side of the equation. There was a time when most people viewed crowdsourcing as chaos – like the inmates running the asylum, and that’s no longer the case for a growing number of people. So I think we’re just getting started.

Let me give you an example. When I started blogging, people would say to me, “Oh that desktop publishing thing is never going to work out. It’s just not going happen. Amateurs will never rise to rank and status of newsprint.”

That was in 2003! So crowdsourcing, like blogging, is an evolving market. I suspect that we’ll look back in a few years and have a laugh over the naysayers the same way we laugh at those who thought blogging was a “fad.” I’d categorize many of today’s crowdsourcing companies as “Crowdsourcing 1.0.” In other words, there’s still a long way to go – and too many great ideas for this trend to fail or even fall short.

uTest: Your new book Baked In just hit the shelves and it’s getting some great reviews. What’s it about and where did the idea for this book come from?

JW: I wrote the book with Alex Bogusky. It is largely based on our personal observations. Over the last few years we’ve seen many clients enter a market with almost identical products, so it was almost impossible for them to differentiate themselves from their competitors. We started to see how this situation was reducing marketing as little more than a way to lie about their products or services. In other words, if there’s no difference between your product or service from that of your competitors, then what other options do marketers have? This obviously led to some very poor marketing strategies.

Social media is changing all that – and that’s what a big part of this book is all about. Social media lends itself to transparency. You’ve got to live up to what you’re saying, because if you don’t, someone else will. The simplest way to summarize the book would be to say that marketing shouldn’t be separate from your product or service – they have to be one and the same. Hence the title.

The basic premise of the book is that the future lies with those who embrace creativity. I’m convinced that crowdsourcing will play a major part in this evolution….

Read the rest of this John Winsor crowdsourcing interview at the uTest blog

Topics: Innovation Insights

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