So you’ve come up the perfect product to solve a problem but know that it will never amount to anything because you don’t want to quit your job and start a company just so that… say… you can help people fit those bulky power adapters onto a powerstrip without hogging too much of its real estate. Or maybe you task your students to serve the public by creating innovative product solutions for common world problems. But what happens with their ideas after the final report is turned in and graded?
A company called Quirky specializes in these types of situations. They provide a place to share a product idea, which they work to develop and market, and you receive some of the income that it generates if it goes all the way into actual sales. And they do it fast, with the help of a few thousand friends. Between the sketch pad and the shopping cart, Quirky asks for input from “Influencers,” who also receive a percentage of the future revenue. Anyone who creates a free account can log in and answer survey questions about what features they would like to see. They can also research similar products or existing patents to influence and regulate the design, can suggest pricing or color, and can submit and vote on product names and tag lines. Virtually every aspect of the future product is decided upon by interested contributors.
As far as providing a good in-course activity that applies to your content area, Quirky may seem to hit a small target market of instructors, but what better place than a college classroom to have students creatively apply their course knowledge and turn abstract concepts into concrete products?
On the full-immersion end of the spectrum, an instructor could challenge students to design and submit a problem-solving product. Quirky’s website resources would provide guidance to help, plus knowing that there was someone who might actually turn their idea into reality would be a big motivator for student effort. On the less-involved end, specific aspects of the Quirky process could play into a variety of business, marketing, economics, chemistry, writing, health, or social science activities, just to name a few. Could you create a 140-character product pitch that is good enough to get people to vote for your idea? What is the best balance between a low price that isn’t too cheap, and a high price that isn’t too expensive? What types of materials would work best for constructing the product? How do ergonomics play into successful product designs? What underlying themes drive the best product names and taglines? What types of social trends influence product ideas or the whole Quirky business model?
Visit the Quirky site, see what it can offer for your course, and give your students an opportunity to surprise you with how they use it to explore and apply your content in a novel, social, world-changing way.