John B. Rogers, Local Motors CEO and coFounder, Talks co-Creation
By Ramon Nuez, Published May 26, 2012
I normally like writing a brief introduction about the industry and the company. I was going about my workflow ready to write that introduction but Rogers wrote something that I think is better than anything I could write about Local Motors: “Local Motors does so much more than co-create for larger clients like Ford or even for Local Motors itself. Local Motors is a destination for you as an innovator to educate yourself, to develop your own product, and to bring it to market in small volume. In academic speak, we exist primarily for the long-tail of automotive specialty equipment. It is a coincidence and a natural fit that such a “long-tail” of innovators is capable and willing to deliver co-creative solutions for others, but it is not the only reason they come together.” –John B. Rogers, Jr.
Q1: So while at Harvard what inspired you to utilize the creativity of the world’s underemployed car designers, to design the Rally Fighter . JR: The truth is that it was not really the underemployed that inspired me, nor was it just designers in the formal sense. While at Harvard, I had the belief that the world of automotive innovators (designers, engineers, fabricators) were not really getting to do what they loved. They were underutilized for their talents to be frank. I felt the need to give them a chance to express themselves, to be known for their craft in a more personal way. I felt that love and passion for your work were infinitely stronger motivations than a formal employment contract. It is for those reasons that we started Local Motors; to empower a world of auto-MAKERS.
Q2: If William Clay Ford Jr., Executive Chairman Ford Motor Company, asked you to meet him for coffee to discuss crowdsourcing design — what would be the one most valuable thing you would drive home? JR: I would tell him that Ford is a national treasure and a fantastic Company, but that its asset is efficient making and selling cars for the masses and not conducting design, research, and development on many new and different vehicles as a core competency. I would ask him to partner with Local Motors each time he wants to bring a new vehicle to market (ever 5-7 years in a segment) and we would do the research and hand off the design to him ready to build and ready to be a huge success in a matter of months. I then know that he would probably get up and leave me with the bill :) But hey…this is not a likely invitation in the first place. If he did in fact, stay, I would then tell him we prefer the term co-creation vs. crowdsourcing. It better reflects the fact that we work together with our community to develop solutions and build winners rather than sourcing the solution from them in exchange for a transactional fee… If he still stayed then I think we would be friends for a long time, and I would buy Ford stock. One more thing, this evolution in Ford’s business would not be because of their having done something wrong. Their evolution is a natural reflection that tools and cultural norms of employment have changed. Our existence is a reflection of that change and we are here to help the entire ecosystem make and deliver revolutionary cars. I think of us as an automotive catalyst that was just discovered due to a breakthrough in technology.
Q3: When looking for a new design do you use a service marketplace — like Freelancer.com or do you mainly rely on “The Forge?” JR: We rely on our community and not on generic or horizontal service marketplaces like Freelancer or GrabCAD. Those marketplaces have their purpose, but ours is a vertical passionate network focused on vehicles exclusively. We depend on the verticality of bringing innovators up and down the spectrum of capability (supply, design, engineering, fabrication, enthusiasm, service) in order to design hard-hitting and relevant vehicles.
Q4: What is the most valuable component of crowdsourcing for Local Motors — access to talent and ideas or reduced costs or reduce time to market? JR: You will think I am being coy, but they are really the same thing. Broad access to the right talent and the right idea at the right time IS going to drastically reduce time to market and reduce mistakes which necessarily will reduce cost and increase capital efficiency and flexibility.
Conclusion I love the term co-creation. I think the phrase fits Local Motors, very well. Rogers sees the community as a partner in the creation process — instead of a generic workforce. There is a perception that crowd labor is cheap and unskilled labor. Now while that perception might have been true a few years ago — it’s not true today. And cocreation projects like the ones that Local Motors collaborates on, are good examples of a highly skilled remote workforce.
An interview with John B. Rogers, CEO and co-founder of Local Motors
Local Motors CEO and co-founder John B. Rogers sees the community as a partner in the creation process — instead of a generic workforce.
There is a perception that crowd labor is cheap and unskilled labor. Now while that perception might have been true a few years ago — it’s not true today. And co-creation projects like the ones that Local Motors collaborates on, are good examples of a highly skilled remote workforce.