The Michael J. Fox Foundation

Using the crowd to your company's advantage

September 7, 2011: 10:23 AM ET

More businesses should consider using the help and support of passionate outsiders to launch new projects and products.

By John Hagel and John Seely Brown, contributors

FORTUNE -- Companies often tend to keep their biggest efforts internal, and they frequently start from scratch, with the idea that they ought to keep their plans close to the vest until the time comes for a splashy announcement. But more businesses should consider using the help and support of passionate outsiders.

Grassroots efforts can help a company find and connect with people who are already deeply involved in the topic and are often difficult to identify and reach by other means. For example, 23andMe, Inc., a company working in the burgeoning field of personal genetics with financial backing from Google (GOOG), has built on the momentum established self-tracking healthcare movement to support its own business goals.

In 2009, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, the Parkinson's Institute and Clinical Center, and 23andMe joined forces to discover who was most likely to get Parkinson's disease. Their goal was to get results faster by inviting the general public to participate in the study and to conduct much of the research online. They also wanted to help those who learned, through the study, that they had a higher chance of getting the disease to make smarter healthcare choices More

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