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When co-creation is more entertainment than social product development: Quirky “reinvents the bicycle” in 24 hours

20 September 2011

 

Nowadays, bikes are trendy. The industry is growing, mainly thanks to trends like eBikes and fixies, that broaden the target audience of cycling conciderably. The popular social product development platform Quirky recently decided to Reinvent The Bicyle in a 24h brainstorm on its platform, and the above image shows the outcome of the brainstorm, designed by Quirky’s design team in San Francisco, CA. Let’s have a look at the process… and the resulting bike, Modus.

 

Just a quick reminder about Quirky: As this visualization shows, Quirky is a company that runs an internet-platform on which people from all the US can submit ideas about products that they would like to see. The community then votes following an interesting set of four dimensions (uniqueness, usefulness, wow factor and likeliness to purchase), which determines if the products gets to next stages of refinement, development or production. You can see some current projects here – I find it amazing how raw consumer ideas get realized this way. A lot of ideas are focused around household products (even if Quirky recently announced they broaden their scope to virtually limitless), but a recent example is also brainstorming around the bicycle.Check out the following teaser to see how they set up the event:

 

 

The strength of Quirky is that they take their social product development process out of the lab – or they just move the whole lab! Quirky is not only on the web, but also on TV and in amazing settings like the Oakland Athletics Stadium in California – that’s probably what makes it attractive to the average person. It’s like reality TV for inventors, they’re telling a compelling story.

 

But let’s get back to our bicycle reinvention: the project brainstormin page gathers 107 comments, and the whole project gathers nearly 800 participants, called ‘influencers’ in the Quirky jargon. A quick look at the submitted ideas/comments shows that most ideas focus around being visible in the dark, having built-in energy generation or having different types of suspension systems that improve confort.I like a comment by a member from  There were also comments about modularity (of both handle bars and saddle), foldability, a built-in locking system or the integration withelectronic devices. Here’s what Quirky’s designers came up with after this 24h brainstorming:

 

sketches

Neat sketches of a redesigned bike (image via http://aQuirkyBlog.com)

 

The looks like a futuristic city bicycle. During the session, some comments from the community said that the ideas were all nice and interesting, but that there was nothing really new to actually reinvent the bicycle as we know it today. “I thought the whole point of this project is reinvent the bike, how can adding a lock or a basket to the a bike can be called reinventing!!! (sic)“, one participant (who mainly criticized, and did not really contribute with ideas) said. I pretty much agree with this point of view, because a lot of features that this bike has already exist on the market. Other participants noticed similarities between the final design and other bike concepts that you can see below:

 

google-images-search-screenshots

 

Luckily, there were also more constructive comments like the guy who suggests to integrate a technology used in the army to generate power by simply walking with special boots: “Put this technology into the design of the pedals and/or the shock absorbers!“, he said, thus being one of the few to propose a technological solution instead of a functional need. This is also pointed out by another member in the discussion, who thinks that Quirky should have targetted a specialized audience instead of issuing an open call to reinvent the bicycle.

 

I’m afraid you may be listening to the wrong people (a Quirky member)

This member points out that “most of the people [in the discussion] don’t ride bikes“. This is an interesting comment and it asks questions about targetting people according to interests and/of skills before launching such a project. But taking a step back, we can analyze it differently: the project is initiated by Quirky and Sony Pictures Entertainment, and the design process was broadcasted live on Ustream… which makes me think that it’s not really about reinventing the bicycle but rather about producing a show that involves people in the redesign of a bicycle. Check out the following comment:

 

screenshot

Image via Quirky.com

 

I think this guy has it right! I think that Quirky’s bet is not to reinvent anything (even if they came up with innovative products already) but to take co-creation to the next level. It’s about entertainment, not about innovation.  If you want innovation, then you’ll have to ge and see experts, practinionners, creative consumers, lead users and the like; but if you want to create emulation around your products, than you shall involve the masses! Others have tried, but Quirky is another serious attempt towards social product development, and if their bet works out then they’ll have a brand with very high equity!

 

3d-illustration

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