Community-based innovation - Case: Boblr

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Community-based innovation - Case: Boblr

Boblr offers a global online platform where organizations and creative people can meet around specific challenges and tasks in the areas of design, marketing and communication. Boblr participates in the consortium Community-Based Innovation (CBI) to learn more about how community approaches can make them more attractive to both clients and creative people.

The process: Input - focus and conscious decisions:
• Quality control of the input
• Make adequate resources available
• Examine underlying structures of motivation

Input - focus and conscious decisions:
Boblr lets their customers inquire for ideas and solutions among a large group of contributors and only reward the best input or concept. Creative people, regardless of education and background, get the opportunity to work on exciting projects from interesting brands whenever they feel like it. There seems to be a gradually growing number of suppliers of this form of crowdsourcing, why it is important to differentiate yourself from others.

Boblr - illustration af proces

Marlene Sihm Vejlsgaard, CEO of Boblr, gives advice and guidance in how a challenge should be designed to assure engagement and focused input from creative people. If desired, she can help in connection with evaluation and selection. Main challenges for Boblr are the transfer of the design process with the many actors involved to an online environment and the process of minimizing and optimizing the use of resources. The key in overcoming these challenges is finding ways of attracting the best creative competences and effectively facilitate co-operation.  Hence, it is important to decode the structures of motivation in order to allow for possible changes in these structures and to develop technical tools to support such co-creation of creative work between people who are spread around the globe.

Throughput – activities and concepts:
The experiments and studies were conducted in connection with a query about a poop-up store concept for Muuse,and they included:
• Preparation of a design brief with “dating questions” to be used for team composition 
• A toolbox of online co-operation tools
• Paper prototypes of new ways of giving recognition and creating visibility for the individual contributor
• Interviews with contributors

Throughput – activities and concepts
In continuation of the presentation of the Muuse challenge, based on the Boblr model, the creative people were asked to answer three 'dating questions', from which selected team leaders could base their composition of  teams. The attempt with teamwork is a new element in Boblr’s business model and which is rarely seen in the crowdsourcing business. The idea is to recreate the design process in an online environment including the valuable co-operation between the client and a number of creative people - and, also, to give creative people the opportunity to find co-operation with people with complementary competencies in order to increase the quality of the final solution. Co-operation across time and space was made possible through a website with links to free online tools such as Skype, Dropbox, Google Docs and Teamlab. In order to appeal more intensely to the creative people paper prototypes were developed to demonstrate how you can highlight individual contributors and acknowledge those who have previously supplied input of high quality. After end of the challenge, participants were interviewed in order to find out what worked, and what did not work as intended.

Output - learning and results:
• Understanding the motivation structures and specific suggestions for ways to change them
• Difficult to establish a fruitful teamwork due to, among other things, hierarchy and time differences
• The potential associated with an expanded and detailed process structure

Output – learning and results
The work in organizations of integrating communities in their business development is still in its infancy, and it is therefore important to prepare for learning through trial and error. This was indeed also the case in the innovation process with Boblr, where it proved difficult to mobilize enough creative people to form teams enough to compete against each other. Probably, this can be attributed to the size of the reward, which was significantly lower than in many of the other projects hosted by Boblr. The main motivational factor for participating seems to be the monetary and material reward, which according to the users must be in proportion to the work required and to the risk of not winning. All the participants had full-time jobs, why they chose to work on the task in their free time, which indicates that crowdsourcing and the self-selection it implies also depends on other aspects. The interviews revealed that other important factors for participating are; a genuine interest in the specific challenge, curiosity and the will to try something new, to get experience and to build a portfolio in a way that creates visibility around one’s competences and achievements. To meet these criteria it is important to continue to make exciting and inspiring design briefs, but Boblr may for example also offer users the possibility to create searchable personal profiles, where achievements, such as being finalist or winner in a challenge, could be visualized through medals or badges. Currently, the winners of a challenge are visible on the website as “Boblr stars", with a link to a short description and contact information, so alternative forms of recognition seem to be a promising subject to explore further.

The team which Boblr managed to assemble eventually consisted of creative people from Denmark, Australia and Hong Kong, and even with the proposed collaborative tools they did not really succeed in getting a fully functioning co-operation running. Reasons for this were the time difference and the fact that the participants did not have the time or interest for learning how to use the resources and tools or to meet in real-time. Moreover, it became clear that the concept with a team leader did not work in this type of innovation concepts where democratic elements are central. The intended function of the team leader was to ensure commitment and high quality in the delivery, but since he chose team members himself at the beginning, he never managed to get  the intended role as facilitator. Instead, a sort of hierarchy was established where all internal communication went through him, whereby he ended up also filtering the ideas and making decisions. This left very little initiative and ownership of the project to the rest of the team members. A way of securing a better co-operation would be to set up an extensive process structure that a team of creative must follow. This would mean more demands but a clearer matching of expectations.

The work of finding competitive ways in which Boblr could differentiate themselves from other crowdsourcing mediators is a continuous process. Further adjustments of the business model will be tried, e.g. concerning different forms of payment and collaboration, but a new process structure has already proved to create value. In a challenge for the toy manufacturer dantoy, Boblr used a two-stage model where the participants in the first stage only were to submit sketches and a brief description of the design. The five most promising contributors were then asked to elaborate on their idea by answering a few questions. This “dialogue” between the client and the creative people before the final evaluation and selection created a better user experience and increased the depth and quality of the proposals.

As one of the two winners put it:
“I think a multi-step process is very good when you don’t have a personal meeting where you can motivate your idea and answer questions. The cons are that it might give you some extra work”. (Jeppe Norsker).

The innovation consortium Community-Based Innovation focuses on the ways in which the connection between groups of people and technology may create value for businesses and organizations. Based on this and other cases we work to create a systematic approach for businesses that wish to enhance their approach to communities. If you wish to know more about CBI or have comments and inputs to the work of the innovation consortium, you are more than welcome to contact us.