This is the problem with listening to your community. The community might be wrong. They don’t have the same knowledge as you do. They don’t know your resources, capabilities, or have access to the same data points.
Most of the people, most of the time, want things to remain the same (or to be slightly better in predictable ways e.g. cheaper MP3 player, better PDA). This isn’t going to help you innovate.
We’ve just launched a survey of our audience. I created it in SurveyMonkey and sent the link to 12k community professionals by e-mail. This reaches more people, has a far higher response rate, and gets us exactly the data we need far quicker than posting the same questions as a discussion post in our experts community.
Some organizations may credit community feedback to the success of 90%+ of their products. Yet that’s exactly the line we expect an organization to say if they wanted their community to buy those products.
So how do online communities uniquely drive innovation?
Where can they be better, quicker, or cheaper than surveys and focus groups?
Groups are incredibly irrational
The problem with community-driven innovation here is group members are prone to biases. The biggest bias is consensus.
The wisdom of the crowds only generates better outcomes when 3 factors are met:
- Each person has a tiny piece of knowledge they can contribute individually of one another.
- The group is diverse and comprises of those both for and against the topic.
- There is limited pre-existing information to sway their views.
This is the exact opposite of what happens in most online communities.
Communities are filled with a group of diehards holding relatively homogenous views. Individuals support the view(s) which achieve plurality. They narrow their options to those similar to existing views. This skews the accuracy away from useful outcomes.
The best feedback is unsolicited
Communities best drive innovation when members give you unsolicited feedback.
When you know what kind of feedback you want, surveys and focus groups work better. They’re quicker, cheaper, and more effective. When you don’t know the question to ask, communities work best.
The community can highlight problems you didn’t think existed. The community can make suggestions you hadn’t considered.
If you know the question, use a survey/focus group. If you don’t, use a community.
We’re now just 11 days away from our FeverBee SPRINT event. If you want to learn a lot of advanced community skills from 14 world-class experts and ourselves, I hope you will join us at: http://sprint.feverbee.com.