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Business - Written by on Wednesday, October 28, 2009 11:59 - 0 Comments

Denis Hancock
Highlights from an interview with the co-founder of Motley Fool

I recently wrote up a detailed case study on the Motley Fool Caps community for clients our nGenera Insight research programs, using the lens of “prosumerism.” I’ve talked about prosumerism here many times before, but it basically centres on customer co-creation. I like to use a play on the famous JFK quote to describe what it’s all about – “ask not what you can do for your customers, but what your customers can do for each other!

I continue to follow Motley Fool closely, and wanted to point readers towards a recent interview (on Forbes) with co-founder Tom Gardner. There are three particular elements I believe should be interesting to Wikinomics readers – their community approach to developing investment ideas (which started in 1994), the meritocratic approach to their Caps community (as opposed to a democracy or “pure” wisdom of crowds), and the importance of transparency.

The first comes in response to the third question, which was focused on what distinguishes them from their competitors. Key quote:

“…we brought that subject to the Internet in 1994 and we did so by basically saying, “We want to hear your ideas. We want to talk together. We want to learn together.” And we’ve ended up attracting a lot of very bright minds to The Motley Fool.”

The meritocratic approach is described in detail on the second page. There’s interesting comments riddled throughout his response, including the fact that not only does the bottom 25% have no influence on rankings, they thought of making them a negative indicator before deciding that was too mean. But the key quote for me was:

“The difference for CAPS is it’s actually wisdom in the crowds because it’s a meritocracy. It’s not one person, one vote. We’re weighting it toward the better players. So the system can’t really be gamed. And what I’ve learned is that top quintile is very much worth studying. I mean, our five-star stocks have dramatically outperformed the market. One-star stocks have dramatically lost to the market. And so I take the five-star rating on our CAPS system quite seriously.”

Finally, the issue of transparency comes up towards the end of the second page. Key quote:

“So, transparency, even if we didn’t believe in it, the very nature of having an open community, which must be a shock to Wall Street system, the idea that your customers can talk to each other, and you actually want them to do so. It’s, we can’t hide, and we don’t want to hide.”

There are many other interesting tidbits riddled throughout the interview, so I strongly recommend Wikinomics readers take a look – particularly if they have an interest in investing.

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