Inspired by Yves Béhar

It was the summer of 2010 and I was working on a consulting project for my friends at Chaordix in Calgary, Canada. CEO and Founder Shelley Kuipers and her team had hired me to research case studies of emerging crowdsourcing ROI success. (Note:  I was an early investor in Chaordix's parent company back in 2006, and today work for the company as the Chaordix Chief Social Scientist.)

Crowdsourcing hadn't yet entered the mainstream in marketing and open innovation, but it was very encouraging to find a growing number of business cases demonstrating significant business success with innovators who were embracing this new method of gathering insights and generating new products and services. Chaordix was already at the leading edge. 

As part of my research, I read an article in Metropolis Magazine about DIY Design, Crowdsourcing and the Future of Craft. A quote jumped out at me:

“Participation is the new brand loyalty.”
– Yves Béhar, Founder of fuseproject, COO at Jawbone

This was adapted to become our company's slogan:

"Participation is the new brand."Chaordix

Why did this resonate so strongly? As I saw the world of drive-by idea hunting programs fading, and the business of traditional market research stumbling ... I realized that crowdsourcing and open innovation companies would be most successful if they realized they were actually in the "people business" -- not the "idea business." People aren't merely samples, or subjects, or respondents, or panels, or segments ... they're participants in the future of the products, services and brands they love. They're people who are just waiting to be asked to help, to join in, to collaborate, to fully experience your brand. All they want is transparency, recognition and reciprocity. And if you treat them with respect and fairness, and invite them into your organization's world to contribute right alongside you, they'll do things that will amaze and delight you.

It's worth noting that by "participation," we mean really inviting people inside your velvet rope to be disruptively creative, to roll up their sleeves and get to work solving problems, to help you make sense of the big sea of data out there. This is far beyond sporadic customer panels and idea contests; this is a persistent relationship with your customers, employees and suppliers that treats them as peers. Not just wallets and voices, but beating hearts and creative minds.

If you're interested in learning more about Yves Béhar and his design work, (he was named one of the World's 7 Most Powerful People in Design by Forbes magazine) check out his TED Talk profile and videos.