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Crowdsourcing innovation: Learnings from Pfizer’s Get Old campaign

If pharma is to truly engage with patients and the wider world, it must embrace the innovation of crowdsourcing – and reap the benefits of doing so.

‘Patient engagement’ is a much-used term nowadays, and we’ve spoken at some length about how the term should not just be a token one in pharma. When it comes to medical research, however, mere ‘involvement’ is just the tip of the iceberg. Crowdsourcing (i.e. obtaining information from vast groups of people, paid or unpaid) is taking the world by storm at the moment, and the medical industry stands to gain more than most from it. We’re saying goodbye to the days of launching global campaigns on the back of market research gathered from a handful of volunteers, and saying hello to a vast well of knowledge which is endlessly replenished by billions of humans of all races, ages, locations, shapes and sizes.

In 2016, Pfizer launched their Get Old campaign online. And when it comes to crowdsourcing, online is the key word here. The internet knows no geographical boundaries, so the campaign can be accessed by anyone at all – and therefore anyone and everyone can get involved.

That said, merely having an online presence is hardly enough to move mountains. So why, exactly, would these masses of people want to assist medical or pharma companies in their research efforts?

Tapping into pride – the milk monitor effect
For Pfizer, the prize of the Get Old campaign is the wealth of information (both up-to-date and extensive) which can be use to inform new innovations and products. And the bonus? They can be completely transparent about that, because this goal is in the interests of society’s health, and not just about their own success.

To be honest, however, this goal is just not quite enough for some people. When we were younger, teachers would often give ‘milk monitor’ duties to naughty kids who – for want of a better comparison – didn’t share the same ambition for the ‘common good’ of the class. What made them play ball and knuckle down was not the satisfaction of making everyone else happy, but rather the pride of responsibility and a feeling of self-importance.

The Get Old campaign not only taps into the desire for the common good, but also strokes the ego (even for grown-ups!) in the same sort of way. No matter how modest we consider ourselves to be, humans cannot help but be flattered when asked for opinions – and even more so when these opinions are acted upon. Get Old, like other crowdsourcing campaigns, not only asks for insights but shares the sum of its findings – as well as the innovations which are influenced by it – with any participant who wants to know. So the initial pride of participants is boosted by satisfaction further down the line, and everyone’s a winner.

Volunteering and entrepreneurship
Besides knowledge, however, are the financial and resource benefits of crowdsourcing. Get Old teamed up with Indiegogo to run a competition alongside the public campaign, the mission of which being to find the best health/wellness project related to ageing – with the prize being a $50,000 grant and ongoing support from Pfizer.

Apart from the buzz around the contest (which is beneficial alone in promotion terms for Pfizer), the projects actually did a lot of hard work for Pfizer – who are always seeking new products and services – and also saved the company money that would have been spent on funding and resources had these entrepreneurs not been available. From the entrepreneur’s viewpoint, however, they are not simply ‘working unpaid’, because the input from Pfizer and Indiegogo – as well as the prestige which comes from being associated with these companies – is enough to propel them to stardom and prosperity.

So crowdsourcing is beneficial for all involved; it is a means to bring talent together, rather than a system which favours one party over another.

Benefits for patients and general health
Above all, crowdsourcing is a pooling of ideas and experiences – a vast library of knowledge but also, potentially, a meeting place for individuals from all walks of life.

Patients’ suffering is eased not only by having access to the wealth of knowledge, but also by connecting to those who are in similar situations and understand their situations.

If pharma is to truly engage with patients and the wider world, and more importantly act on what these parties provide, it must embrace the innovation of crowdsourcing – and reap the benefits of doing so.

Blog originally published here:

29th November 2017



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