As I talk to large companies both within and outside the consumer products space, I’ve noticed that the ones best positioned for success are those that realize the days of relying solely on internal R&D teams to drive all innovation are over. Think about it. How can 10, 50 or 100 people sitting in a corporate HQ or lab somewhere possibly out innovate those companies that can solicit input from the millions of actual consumers they can connect to via various web platforms? This concept, of dispersed innovation replacing “top down” innovation is one of the not so quiet trends amongst sophisticated consumer companies. Below are four platforms we love for promoting dispersed innovation: Quirky (www.quirky.com). We’ve all been there, sketching out an invention on a napkin or notepad during a long business meeting. Quirky brings these cocktail napkin sketches to life. Users on Quirky pay $10 to submit their product ideas and can also rate and influence others’ product ideas through all phases of product development: product design, logo, name, packaging, etc. To date, Quirky’s crowdsourced invention platform has resulted in 300 products developed, which are sold through 188 retail partners including Bed Bath & Beyond, Target and Amazon.com. The platform launches at least three new products per week developed by its community of 354,000 inventors. What I love about Quirky isn’t just that anyone can submit an idea that may one day be on the shelves of retailers. It’s that Quirky is both an idea generation and refinement platform, so the power of the crowd can truly be harnessed to optimize a product—not simply vote on launching a new flavor or naming a new product like a lot of the major CPGs have done recently.