Posted on 30 December 2010

In thinking about market research, I have posited that the industry will go through several evolutionary phases.

These are:

Asking Epoch
Observational Epoch
Co-Creative Epoch
Anticipatory Epoch

At present, MR is trying to move out of the Asking Epoch and into the Observational Epoch.

But, its the co-creative evolutionary stage I want to focus on today.

Recently a number of “crowdsourcing” firms have created an industry group – Crowdsortium.

I actually believe that this is a fairly big deal.

The creation of a trade group, sharing of best practices, and development of shared language are all signs of a maturing industry.

Although crowdsourcing threatens the traditional market research paradigm, I view this kind of collaboration as (a) inevitable as society uses technological platforms to create more inclusive systems, (b) desirable within a Western framework of individual liberty and self-expression, and (c) incredibly threatening to large hierarchical systems. As a pro-market libertarian it is difficult to be a neutral observer of this phenomenon. I have a very clear bias in favor of distributed, evolutionary systems, agreeing with Virginia Postrel on what drives the future.

What is interesting about Crowdsortium and the idea behind it is what a game changer it can be beyond market research.

As Kevin Lonnie points out, there are very significant challenges to crowdsourcing within large organizations. Big organizations want stasis, not mass change. This is one of the reasons that they quit evolving and are replaced by stronger competitors.

Still, I remain optimistic. Market research can harness crowdsourcing and help provide better products and services as a result. Businesses can adapt to a much more open-ended relationship with the customer. After all, weren’t we all taught in High School economics that “the customer is king?”

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