Flipped: How bottom-up co-creation is replacing top-down innovation, John Winsor


Image via JohnWinsor.com


I just finished this little book written by John Winsor, and as accustomed I’m sharing my thoughts about it. M. Winsor is the co-founder and CEO of the ad agency Victors & Spoils, the first agency built on crowdsourcing principles. In this short book, he tells us how businesses can benefit from co-creation in marketing and innovation, and details the seven steps that allow them to embrace a beneficial bottom-up strategy.

“If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse” Henry Ford

What John Winsor calls a “bottom-up” is the fact that companies should get into a relationship with their customers before the launch of a product, not after it. But more than asking people what they want, this relationship is more about “intimately knowing the customers at the front end of the process“, says Winsor. I won’t give the seven steps that he advises companies to build  up to co-create from the bottom-up because (1) it would be boring, and (2) it’s what the whole book is about. Let me highlight some examples that are used to illustrate strategies of bottom-up co-creation.

  • Women’s Sport & Fitness


John Winsor bought the sports magazine Women’s Sports & Fitness in 1990 and started using focus groups to “do some serious triage” in the marketing of the product. He quickly found out that he wouldn’t find out anything useful doing regular focus groups, but he had to “hit the streets and really listen to [his] readers face to face“. He decided to focus on a specific core of the market, cutting the circulation in half… which resulted in Women’s Sports and Fitness being “the leading voice for athletic women in the US” eight years later. This is an example on Step 3: Listen.

  • The power of social networks

Step 4 is about finding inspiration, and using the power of social networks (whether they be web-based or not). One recent illustration of Milgram’s “small world hypothesis” is the case of Kevin Bacon’s hollywood network. Some scientists recently worked on this particular example, and there’s even a 2002 advertisement which features the premise that all actors in Hollywood have been in a film with someone else who is only six movie roles away from Kevin Bacon. Winsor concludes saying that “positive people who feel they are lucky can be a tremendous asset to you in finding inspiration in a network“.

  • Nike’s move into the golf market

David Duval, playing with Nike golf equipmeny (image via Nike.com)

To enter a new market, Winsor advises companies to “find the center of gravity“, which means “[having an] internal alignment based around shared meaning“. When Nike expanded into the golf market in 1995, they choose a quiet way of doing things: get deep understanding of the market and its culture. “Nike went on a learning quest“, he says. In 2002 (five years later!), Tiger Woods dropped his previous partner Titleist to start playing with Nike golf balls, and David Duval won his first major tournament with Nike’s new clubs in 2002. “All the hard work and deep dialogue around the needs of golfers started to pay off as they became a resounding market leader in a short period of time“, says Winsor, praising the patience of the brand in this strategic move.

Bottom-line of the book is that relevant innovation might not come from information and knowledge, but even further from the inspiration and intuition derived from a deep customer intimacy. Albert Einstein once said…

Any fool can know, the point is to understand

…which is perfectly in line with the story of Flipped.

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