“How does NYC’s Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV) Work and How Can It Be Applied to Market Research?”

The recent NYC mayoral primary marked a major milestone by employing ranked choice voting system – the most high-profile test of this system to date. Rather than choose only one candidate in this election, voters were able to rank several in order of their preference.

This means that even if one’s top choice doesn’t have enough support to win the election, their rankings of other candidates still can play a role in determining who wins.

Put another way, voters in this election did not need to make an all-or-nothing choice with their vote. Think about what this can do for product development… in a nutshell, it can revolutionize it. Hear me out on this.

First, for context, let’s review how the product development lifecycle has progressed throughout the years.

Traditional Product Development Cycle

Traditionally, the product development cycle would consist of:

  • A bunch of creatives brainstorming ideas
  • Once said creatives came to a consensus for what they deemed the idea with the best chance of making it to market, they punted to R&D where the technology and mechanics of said product are hammered out
  • This prototype was tested in a small live focus group or two, or perhaps some in-home testing – both options with a very small sample, and minimally refined based on this limited feedback
  • Then, the marketing agency is called in to create concepts to sell the new product, and tested among another small group of consumers, typically live
  • The product is launched

All of this is very reactive and does not take the most important person into account when designing this product – the consumer. Ultimately, only the creative team could inform and adjust a product or campaign, creating an environment where there is no opportunity for a product to be influenced by consumer input. And incredibly, this is still the norm for many corporations, though thankfully these days there is more of an emphasis on incorporating customer feedback into the development process.

This leads us to Design Thinking.

Design Thinking

The new product development process that many are starting to employ is anchored on the theme of proactivity where customers’ needs, behaviors and ideas are integrated from start to finish. Further, customers provide the inspiration for new products, rather than the creatives of the past.

There are 5 steps in the design thinking process that enable a brand to innovate with input from customers throughout every step of the development cycle, thus having a greater chance of success.

  • Empathize – through ongoing conversations with customers, understand their needs, preferences, and behaviors
  • Define – insights learned from empathetic dialogs will lead to the understanding of how, why and when a customer will engage with an offering.
  • Ideate – gain inspiration for new products by putting customers in the driver’s seat when ideating. Doing so not only provides greater insight into who they are, but it also affords greater contextual incorporation of their insights – not just their feedback – into every stage of the product development lifecycle.
  • Prototype & Test – Once ideas and inspirations have been identified, take them to R&D for an initial round of prototyping. But don’t stop here; take the prototype to testing with both customers and stakeholders. This is typically done throughout the entire product development process so that ideas can rapidly evolve through iterative refinement going back and forth externally with the customer community and the internal stakeholders.

Essentially, through it’s five-step process, Design Thinking lays out a roadmap for customer Co-Creation.

Customer Co-Creation

Co-Creation is defined as a customer-driven process in which a business or organization must discover, understand, and satisfy the latent needs of its customers or discover new market opportunities. Within the last few decades in particular– with the invention of the internet, Co-Creation as a concept in business and mainstream vernacular has become more popular; with the web, interaction across large groups at various locations became possible.

This led to Crowdsourcing, which firmly put the customer at the beginning of the product development cycle.

However, Crowdsourcing has its limitations. Most crowdsourcing initiatives end up with an overwhelming number of useless ideas. Dealing with a full submission box is not only extremely time consuming and costly, but it also biases how ideas are selected: When firms receive too many ideas, they tend to focus on ideas that are already familiar to them, defeating the entire purpose of crowdsourcing, which is to surface new thinking. Why do many crowdsourced ideas turn out so bad, and what can firms do about it? Recent research finds that it comes down to understanding the motivations of crowd members. . [Source: Harvard Business Review: Why Crowdsourcing Often Leads to Bad Ideas]

Enter CrowdWeaving – our proprietary Co-Creation methodology.

CrowdWeaving is firmly rooted Design Thinking, as it creates an environment where brands can ideate and collaborate with customers, thus incorporating them into the product development process. CrowdWeaving takes Crowdsourcing a step further by incorporating that element of collaboration into the process, thus enabling the creation of more robust ideas born of inspiration from both client and customer.

This is where rank voting comes into play.

Rank Choice and Co-Creation

Since its inception more than a decade ago, CrowdWeaving has incorporated a rank voting system, where participants in a CrowdWeaving ideation project – or Challenge – are asked to not only brainstorm ideas for a new product, but they are also tasked with voting for the ideas they think are strongest, and then ranking them in order of which they most prefer.

This rank choice system consistently produces multiple ideas that can be built into concepts for prototyping, testing, and refinement into viable products. Further, through ranked choice analysis it is possible to identify themes that uncover consumer pain points, unmet market needs, and other consumer preferences and desires. This creates not just a new product to bring to market, but also a pipeline of inspiration for future products and services.

In other words, customers get a say in what products go to market, and feel they have a fair stake in the development process. Also, brands develop products with customers in mind. This makes for successful products born of true innovation and collaboration.


Now let’s bring this back to the NYC primary race, and elections in general. With rank choice voting, rather than pick just one candidate, voters get to rank several in order of preference. This means that even if a voter’s top choice doesn’t have enough support to win, their rankings of other candidates still play a role in determining the victor.

Ultimately, it means that voters get a say in who wins the election and thus represents them, even if their top candidate doesn’t win. They feel they have a fair stake in the process and feel better represented by their elected officials. This makes for successful administration born of true innovation and collaboration. Again, revolutionary.

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