While speculators offer enthusiastic predictions for life beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, the truth is that nobody has a crystal ball. Consumers have adopted new attitudes and behaviors during the lockdown, but we cannot be certain which of these will remain in the months to come. What we can be certain of, is that for brands to respond to these changing needs, act upon insights and thrive in a volatile environment, creativity will be required. Of course, we know that creativity is a unique skill, and one of the hardest things to keep alive under pressure. Yet organizations that are able to do so can reap significant value. According to a report by the Boston Consulting Group, 14% of companies, on average, improved their growth and margin during the past four downturns, through investment in new growth areas.

Creativity has always been high on the agenda, but today it is more than ever in demand by employers. A LinkedIn Learning article lists creativity as the number one skill “;companies need most in 2020”;. However, creatives are a rare breed and not everyone within an organization has the skill to come up with new and fresh ideas. Moreover, for every group of 100 people, it is said that only 1% can be labeled as a true creator. In order to connect with that 1%, organizations need a more flexible business model rather than trying to house all talent under one roof. Creative crowdsourcing allows organizations to tap into the creative potential of external creators, by sourcing the right crowd for the right ideas. From generating new product concepts that meet unprecedented consumer needs to brainstorming about relevant communications and optimal touchpoint experiences: crowdsourcing fuels any business challenge with fresh ideas.

In times of crisis, it”;s easy to fall back on a “;fight or flight”; mode that narrows the business focus. Creative crowdsourcing encourages organizations to open up to new opportunities, by providing access to a continuous pool of fresh ideas and inspiration. Working with external creatives provides the opportunity to unlock ideas that are not immediately apparent to internal stakeholders yet do tap into highly relevant consumer frictions or needs. In addition, bringing in a diverse group of problem solvers, often only found outside an organization, avoids homogeneity and bias.

In line with this thinking, our digital creative crowdsourcing platform, eÿeka, gathers more than 400,000 talented creatives from 160+ countries, that participate in online creative competitions. Its members are diverse in their level of experience as well as in their profession. Furthermore, any idea contest run via the eÿeka platform involves over 20 nationalities. 92% of the best ideas have proven to originate from creatives located outside the target market, which proves that great ideas can truly come from anywhere!

To demonstrate the need for creativity and the power of collaboration during the current global crisis, we conducted a two-part research study to envision a post-lockdown reality.

In April, we launched a global qualitative COVID-19 consumer community (13 countries, 80 participants, aged 18-56+), which generated a number of key insights into the “;future consumer”;. One of these was the rise of enochlophobia, namely the idea that people are craving social interaction but are wary of getting infected and will, therefore, want to avoid crowds for the foreseeable future. We identified this as one of the most challenging frictions for consumers at the moment. We presented this insight to our eÿeka network in the form of an open contest, asking creatives to help brands prepare for the post-COVID-19 world, specifically addressing what sorts of products and services consumers will look for, and also how brands can evolve to provide for those needs and help consumers leave their homes “;with caution”;.

Our eÿeka network responded overwhelmingly! In just 12 days, the contest generated 142 ideas from 77 participants in 35 countries. The ideas represented four distinct themes: Hygiene, Social Responsibility, Wellbeing, and Regulatory Standards, and span industries from FMCG to financial services. The innovations served both today and tomorrow, generating a mix of ideas ranging from small lifestyle changes or adaptations of present-day products to original products or technologies emerging from significant lifestyle changes. We mapped the ideas on two axes – individual (self-care) vs society (community-focused), and human vs technology.

We then selected 10 winning ideas, the majority of which focused on one theme and fell into one quadrant, but some of which straddled the chart by covering all themes. The winning ideas included communications strategies, new product developments, software applications, and virtual reality. One creative from India went so far as to redesign the entire in-store retail experience, including a thermal entrance tunnel, antimicrobial trolley grips, and automated sanitization features throughout the store. First place was awarded to a creative from Beijing, China, for their “;Bubble wrapper Disinfectant”;; bubble wrap injected with disinfectant would be used to wrap home-delivery parcels and, once popped, would sanitize the package before entering the home.

In less than two weeks, this groundbreaking research project showed the unique value of generating a consumer insight via an online community and feeding this into a creative contest to generate creative ideas and concepts for brands. This research-on-research project highlights the power of crowdsourcing ideas from around the world, the power of creativity, and the power of diversity in ideation. Brands should be convinced that they don”;t have to reinvent the wheel to survive this crisis, but rather can succeed simply by sourcing the right people for the right ideas.

Whilst we cannot be certain about the future, we can be certain of one thing: actively shaping consumer insight requires creativity! What”;s your brand plan for life beyond the crisis?

Read more: greenbook.org