From NASA space suit to Lego Toys – Why crowdsourcing should be part of every supply chain strategy


Supply Chain Strategy Gets a Boost from Crowdsourcing

We are starting to hear about the need for innovation in supply chain strategy.

Crowdsourcing is proving its value in boosting innovation. The magic of this idea is that it ties new product launches with customer wants and needs.

NASA recently turned to the public for the design of its latest space suit, allowing people to choose among three prototypes.

The Z-2 space suit is an update of the Z-1, which was named one of Time Magazine’s Best Inventions in 2012.

“After the positive response to the Z-1 suit’s visual design we received, we wanted to take the opportunity to provide this new suit with an equally memorable appearance,” NASA says on its website.

Legos Ghostbusters-inspired toys will hit shelves in the US this June at US$49.99. The set is also a product of crowdsourcing. 

Lego Cuusoo – the crowdsourcing platform run by its Japanese partner – has helped the company with product ideas since 2008. Lego reviews product ideas that receive at least 10,000 votes and the winner gets 1% of net revenue from the toy.

“While swallowing smaller companies and their readily available technology is one way big corporations refresh their innovation strategies, some decide to turbocharge consumer involvement early through crowdsourcing. Although the late Steve Jobs may disagree by saying customers do not know what they want, crowdsourcing has its place in many supply chains. With in-house curating, involving customers more intimately in the supply chain can be a powerful combination,” says Vivek Sood – CEO of Global Supply Chain Group.

Recently, Hasbro, the maker of globally popular game Monopoly, ran a crowdsourcing campaign to choose new “House Rules”. The new “House Rules” set, to be released later this year, is an attempt to refresh the game after nearly 80 years.

Just over 10 days of the crowdsourcing initiative on Facebook, several thousand people have given their comments.

“There are a lot of Monopoly purists who want to play by the classic rules and don’t want to change it, but we love the idea of there being some optional rules in there that can mix up the game a little bit,” says Jonathan Berkowitz, vice president of marketing.

A lot of companies have successfully adopted crowdsourcing, such as Samsung’s Open Innovation Program, Dell’s IdeaStorm, and Phillips’s Simplyinnovate.

Crowdsourcing can range from simply asking for consumer opinions about existing options, to allowing people to come up with workable ideas.

“In a way, crowdsourcing represents the Fire-Aim-Ready (FAR) model of innovation, as it lets companies test new ideas and then continually fine-tune them, while choosing the right partners to realise consumer wishes in a profitable manner,” says Sood – author of the book “The 5-Star Business Network“.

Traditionally supply chain has never been considered as part of the innovation drive, but the FAR innovation concept flips that model on its head – dramatically reducing the time to market, and effectiveness of innovation.

Crowdsourcing is one way to do this.

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Vivek Sood

I write about "The Supply Chain CEOs", "The 5-STAR Business Networks", and, how to "Unchain Your Corporation". In my work, I help create extraordinary corporate results using several 'unique' supply chain methodologies. Contact me for interesting, high impact projects, or, to get access to my IP for creating transformations using these methodologies.

  • Rosylili says:

    Crowdsourcing is really shaking things up in the supply chain.
    But can socializing the supply chain help you gain a competitive advantage?

    Crowdsourcing as a modern business term coined in 2006.

    Jeff Howe, from Wired Magazine, first used the phrase in an article titled The Rise of Crowdsourcing.

    Howe suggested crowdsourcing encouraged the best-qualified and most creative participants to join in on a project.

    The official definition is the process of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, especially an online community, rather than from employees or suppliers. (by Merriam-Webster).

    According to CBS News: the basic idea is to tap into the collective intelligence of the public at large to complete business-related tasks that a company would normally either perform itself or outsource to a third-party provider.

    There are so many examples of crowdsourcing, from start-up investing like Kickstarter to mapping the world by OpenStreetMap

  • SCM analyst says:

    Just reading How NASA make strategy through crowdsourcing.
    I’m reading more like- “Rethinking Crowdsourcing”

    “When the Swiss soft drink company Rivella was looking to launch new flavors in 2012, it used an open innovation platform to ask consumers for ideas and received 800 responses. As managers sorted through them, they noticed that one in particular—for a health-oriented ginger-flavored drink—appeared to be extremely popular. But on closer examination, they saw that much of the buzz around it was coming from just a handful of participants who were working feverishly to elicit votes and comments. “It was a very small group of consumers who were rallying one another and generating a lot of noise,” says Silvan Brauen, who oversaw Rivella’s innovation pipeline. Despite the strong online feedback, the company concluded that the ginger flavor would flop in the market and abandoned the idea.” (

  • Addison says:

    Found your post interesting to read – it really explains the need for innovation in supply chain strategy in detail I can’t wait to see your other posts, but making comment here so I can come back again and refer my friends here. Good Luck for the upcoming updates.This article is really very interesting and effective.

  • Alexa Izabela says:

    The rapid growth of ecommerce and fast-changing consumer expectations require companies to think and act out of the box. While crowdsourcing is not a completely new phenomenon, few carriers other than Amazon have so far harnessed the model to final mile delivery. When properly understood and leveraged, crowdsourcing can yield major operational benefits, help provide exceptional customer experience, and enable organizations to better capitalize on the growing demand for innovation.

  • Amy Walling says:

    Crowdsourcing has emerged as a way to both gain better visibility into where risk events may occur, and understand their financial implications. The impact of crowdsourcing on mitigating supply chain risk is also apparent in technology that enables companies to communicate and collaborate with their suppliers is real time. Social networks for the extended supply chain provide a platform for trading partners to share their internal data and contribute information that affects the supply chain, such as transportation timelines, severe weather, and manufacturing interruptions. This creates increased visibility that empowers key stakeholders to quickly mitigate risks as they emerge.

  • Thompson says:

    Crowdsourcing offers CEO’s a proactive real-time approach to supply chain management. This solution presents a potential treasure trove of influence and insight to a company’s ever changing environment. For example, there are an increasing number of social media tools, mobile and location services that make it easy for people to broadcast where they are and what they are doing. This means a plethora of real time information is constantly available. Data can include everything from pinpointing road closures to highlighting which products are out of stock.

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