What started only two years ago as a messaging service with few bells and whistles has evolved into a company with worldwide recognition, millions of Tweeters and the fans who read their tweets. Twitter founders, Evan Williams and Biz Stone, had the business savvy to outsource ideas on how to grow and improve their service to the people who use it on a daily and hourly basis. The company monitors how users use the service and which ideas become popular. Then company engineers transform these ideas into features.
The company has announced that two new features will be rolled out sometime in the next several weeks called Lists and Retweets from users’ ideas.
“Twitter’s smart enough-or lucky enough-to say, ‘Gee, let’s not try to compete with our users in designing this stuff, let’s outsource design to them,’ ” said Eric von Hippel, head of the innovation and entrepreneurship group at the Sloan School of Management at MIT and author of the book “Democratizing Innovation.”
Professor von Hippel said that economists have thought that the people making products and running the companies are natural sources for new ideas and innovations. However, technology companies have turned that model upside-down successfully by allowing others to innovate for them. This works primarily because the Internet lets people around the world share ideas in real time and software allows users to design new products inexpensively. A good example of this is photo-sharing giant Flickr that started out as a small part of a game. When Flickr founders discovered that the photo-sharing aspect was more popular than the game, they shed the game and focused on building Flickr.
This shift favors young start-up companies as older companies tend to rely on proven ideas and techniques, and the structures of their companies may discourage outside-the-box thinking intentionally or unintentionally. Nevertheless, that may be changing somewhat as older companies now try to emulate the methods of new companies after watching how new companies grow to success. One good example is Ford Motor Company-it noticed that users were modifying the voice-activated entertainment and GPS system, Sync, and so invited college students to create new features for the system.