Dell, Starbucks: Crowdsourcing ideas

Posted on April 21, 2008 
Filed Under Crowdsourcing, Social Media

Jeff Jarvis looks at Dell and Starbucks in setting up brainstorm forums to solicit ideas from customers. (via Guardian)

“When Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz returned to his company to put it back on track – as Dell had done a year before – the two chiefs compared notes. Now the coffee empire has opened its version of Dell’s IdeaStorm at MyStarbucksIdea

“The Starbucks discussion is fascinating. Various caffeinated customers in a hurry suggested that they could encode their standing orders and credit on to cards so they could wave them like London’s tube/bus Oyster cards upon entering, putting their order in and charging them automatically, which would allow them to skip (and shorten) the line. Others suggested separate lines for simple orders of brewed coffee. What the customers were really telling the company was that the length of its lines is a problem. But note well that they didn’t complain about this. Instead, they came up with solutions. It’s a sign of the gift economy online. Customers are willing to help. They want to be partners.

“The top suggestion at MyStarbucksIdea as I write this – with 53,000 votes and 600 comments – is loftier: to bring cafe society to the cafes. “Use the power of media and wireless new media in particular to foster a sense of conversation about the arts, current events, etc,” one customer proposed. An enthused commenter responded: “Great conversation will also renew the image of Starbucks as being not only a coffee community but also a global community where humanist ideas and great artists, writers, comedians etc could also attract a lot of people and turn Starbucks into a cultural, humanist hub!” Sounds like the Guardian, with extra froth.

“I would love to see this platform for mutual engagement also taken to government. I’m not suggesting we transform parliament into an online forum. But why shouldn’t constituents share their good ideas and use the organising power of the internet to gather movements around them? When I blogged this thought, Salesforce’s Benioff chimed in, calling it a ‘killer idea’ but cautioning: ‘Salesforce Ideas is a democracy, as the saying goes, red in tooth and claw. But you have to invest in a conversation – it’s not going to work unless there’s a real back-and-forth.’

“The prime minister’s office, working with MySociety, has made a start on such a digital democracy at, where citizens have submitted more than 29,000 petitions since 2006 (half rejected as duplicates or for legal and other issues), drawing signatures from about four million people.

“But the real question for companies and institutions is how willing they are to let their constituents into the process of doing their jobs. Can customers help design products? Can citizens write legislation? Can readers suggest stories newspapers should cover?”


Links: Jeremiah Owyang | Elisabeth Gillespie | Muhammad Saleem.


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