Web Brainstorming for New Product Ideas
By Bernice Hurst, Managing Director, Fine Food Network
Citizen journalism, blogs, Wikipedia and consumer-generated entertainment are just the beginning. Now anyone with a computer can vote on new product development suggestions or suggest their own and try to stimulate sufficient demand to get the idea off the drawing board and onto the production line.
Stimulated by Japanese inventor and entrepreneur Kohei Nishiyama, Elephant Design is aimed at new ideas. Through its “Design to Order” technology, anyone who wants to will be able to post an image and description on www.elephant-design.com. From there, others are encouraged to suggest alterations and improvements. If enough people then vote for the product, Mr. Nishiyama will look for a manufacturer to turn the item into commercial reality.
Design to Order has been running in Japan for a few years at www.cuusoo.com. It’s scheduled to be formally launched in the U.K. as www.elephant-design.com in 2008.
Mr. Nishiyama wants to provide an alternative to the mass-produced items weighing down retailers’ shelves. As he told The Guardian, “Our idea is to give people what they want by involving anyone of any age or nationality who has a good idea, early on in the process. There are a lot of people who have great ideas but they’re not working in the business. Our society is an under-utilized talent.”
In Japan, designers have found the Cuusoo website an invaluable tool to float ideas without financial liability should they fail. An arrangement with Japanese retailer Muji is also up and running, with the goal of developing products for its stores. The first product to roll out is a set of transparent sticky memos, created by a 21-year old student and due to hit the market next month.
Discussion Questions: What do you think of using the internet as a forum for brainstorming new product ideas? Or is the opportunity more for the tiny niche populated by the weird and wonderful?