The intelligence of the crowd

When the late great management thinkers C.K. Prahalad and Venkat Ramaswany introduced the concept of co-creation, around the year 2000, it marked the beginning of a new dialogue – or, as many would argue, the real beginning of a dialogue – between customers and companies.  Not unlike top-down management, which dictated strategy and expected employees to follow it, a company would previously develop a product without external input (the odd focus group withstanding) and expect consumers to buy it.

As Prahalad defined it, co-creation invited customers into the company’s meeting rooms and onto its factory floors. The customer – and the firm – would dialogue in developing the product. Thus, value would be co-created by the firm and the customer rather than created entirely by, and inside, the firm.

Alliances and open innovation each became significant iterations and manifestations of co-creation. While various social media can claim to be the next iteration of co-creation, none can make that claim – arguably, perhaps – as convincingly as crowdsourcing. First articulated by Wired Magazine editors Jeff Howe and Mark Robinson in 2005, crowdsourcing has demonstrated its range and potency by enabling all kinds of organizations to do everything from make disaster response more efficient, design a better book cover and help a certain, prominent purveyor of caffeinated products raise the quality of customer input. (The latter is discussed in one of the articles in this issue). As multi-nationals and start-ups alike have discovered, nothing creates value like the wisdom of the crowd.

Also in this issue, you’ll read excellent articles on whether Chinese state-owned-enterprises in Africa are actually entrepreneurial ventures or merely an extension of the state itself, and what India needs to do to replenish the leadership pipeline that powered the country to the top of the heap in South Asian business. We also encourage you to read Good Leaders Never Stop Learning, which is based on Ivey Professor Gerard Seijts new book. Great summer (management) reading.

Stephen Bernhut