Where is the Crowdsourcing Movement Heading?

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Crowdsourcing has been growing in interest for some time to change our thinking in innovation discovery. It can hold a key for us to help solve vexing questions, real challenges, and connect different voices, that builds into a community that can combine and open up the fields of opportunity for new solutions.

Crowdsourcing does have both the potential to point towards disrupting possibilities, extends the concept of open innovation into a wider source of participation from a diverse community not possible to reach by other means as effectively. It can simply connect a ‘crowd’ of people to a common purpose. All in all, if applied carefully it can provide you with a leading edge of innovation knowledge and insight.

I wanted to step back a little and take a more measured look at crowdsourcing over three posts. This is part one.

Crowdsourcing must be a powerful concept?

Potentlly the answer is yes, yet it does come with many “buts” that need the understanding to extract the value of the crowd and that can become complicated. There are a growing number of experts or specialised resources that can ‘host’ your crowd challenge but you need to be clear on what you are attempting and be reassured those that you work with do have the expertise they claim.

According to different sources the ‘crowd economy’ has been growing 50 to 70% per year in the last two years but admittedly from a low base. Will it continue to grow at these rates or even more? I believe the chances are more, yet this will be determined by those that understand and learn the practices, pitfalls and levers to this, and that is going to be decided by organizations determined to put in the time and dedicated resources into learning, so they can translate the “emerging practices” into their practices that provide value, impact and returns.

Crowdsourcing does have a sound potential to compliment or simply become your principal source of turning concepts and challenges into solid ideas that do have an impact. It certainly has its place alongside the reliance on simply internally generated ideas but crowdsourcing needs to be well understood and have its own process to work through.

Is the crowd economy the way of the future?

Is it faster, potentially lower costs than the alternatives of discovery but can sometimes generate overwhelming data. The insights or real nuggets need teasing out and determining.

What do you gain that is additional to what you are currently doing?

The top line metrics to begin thinking this through lie in determining the impact you are looking for, understanding the reach potential and different engagement possibilities, determine and ensure there is a level of satisfaction to all those that participate, clarify the cost of any such implementation / initiative in setting up, learning and translating into commercial outcomes  and getting a good sense of your ability to deliver on all those great new ideas in resources, time and cost.

Every conversation, challenge, event and community building is likely to be different and that lack of the ability to have a repeating process will certainly drive the cost of origination a lot higher. That needs understanding, and convincing those above that the setup and origination costs for each crowdsourcing challenge or project are going to contain a fair amount of the costing. We will go into that in a future post covering different challenges today.

A definition of crowdsourcing that does seem right to me:

I like this extract from the New York Times:

Crowdsourcing is the practice of engaging a ‘crowd’ or group for a common goal- often innovation, problem-solving or efficiency. Crowdsourcing can take place on many different levels and across various industries (social and government). Thanks to our growing connectivity, it is now easier than ever for individuals to collectively contribute- whether with ideas, time, expertise or funds- to a project or cause. This collective mobilisation is crowdsourcing”

They go on to say:

“This phenomenon can provide organisations with access to new ideas and solutions, deeper consumer engagement, opportunities for co-creation, optimisation of tasks, and reduced costs. The internet and social media have brought organisations closer to stakeholders, laying the groundwork for new ways of collaborating and creating value together like never before. The approach is being embraced:

“Crowds are a hit. Millions of people, connected by the internet, are contributing ideas and information to projects big and small. Crowdsourcing, as it is called, is helping to solve tricky problems and providing localised information. And with the right knowledge, contributing to the crowd- and using its wisdom- is easier than ever”

So where are you on the crowd continuum? Is it to simply make money, to produce better results or help create a better world or are you bravely attempting all three?

What are the top objectives for launching a crowd venture?

I’ve looked at a fair number of these top objectives but CrowdsourcingWeek.com offers these six.

1) Crowdsourcing solves problems from non-traditional sources,

2) it funds new ideas and businesses,

3) identifies crowd-based insights to surface new perspectives,

4) delivers awareness, publicity and buzz value,

5) it can launch a product / service / idea or news and finally

6) it can create breakthrough innovation.

So where is this crowdsourcing movement heading?

Again there are plenty of thoughts and suggestions. Firstly we have the bigger “meta” trends or present phenomena driving much of our thinking.

The constant rise of social networks and the media, the equal rise of the entrepreneurial, startup culture is feeding this need for lower cost, but extracting greater insights. The reduction in mass marketing effectiveness, a tightening up of capital and limited resources drives even more the efficiencies expected from our organizations and crowdsourcing makes up with gaining more abilities for agility, understanding and gaining evidence of shifts that are taking place faster than traditional research techniques can provide as trends important to your specific issues you need solutions for.

Equally, the authenticity, transparency, trust and credibility are all changing. There is a rise of the independent voice, free agents, opinion shapers, independent parties who can now greatly influence outcomes than ever before. Users are generating more content and insights that are affecting enterprises and how what and why products, service and often the business model has to be constantly checked, refreshed and aligned. Lastly, here you have a generation ‘thing’ where the Gen Y seem to be significantly different than past generations and that needs greater understanding to account for.

We are seeing increasing calls for greater speed, increased customization, engagement, authenticity, the different view on value, functionality. The monetization needs greater understanding, security and vested interests need greater collaboration and increased connections. It is a global, connected, converging world that needs a constant attention to curation, filtering and context relating than ever.

We need to understand and attempt to manage in this rapidly changing environment.

Crowdsourcing is emerging and still has controversial emotions and questions

In this opening post on establishing a top-level clarity on crowdsourcing, I’d like to offer these question we need to raise, explore and find answers too. In the second part of this post, we’ll see what answers we have, or just admit they are still out there needing solutions or open to more discussion.

These are:

  1. There needs to be a more central source of reference around crowdsourcing. Until we achieve this it will remain fragmented and silo’s of knowledge, experience and leading practice remains buried from the majority and the individual learning curve, and will prevent crowdsourcing to become mainstream.
  2. There are still very few people inside organisations who really understand all the differences, value and danger points on how crowd collaborations really work.
  3. Those within the developing world are likely to embrace crowdsourcing faster than the developed world as they can sense a real competitive advantage.
  4. We will need to find and establish better ways to manage and curate crowd-based efforts than we have available to us now.Will these be through specialised organisations or developed on a backbone of internal practices and experience tapping into a cloud-based set of solutions you “grab and string” together to meet specific challenges?
  5. Will larger companies accelerate their investments in the crowd economy on growing recognition of its valuable part to play in growth and innovation, or will they remain laggards to smaller companies better positioned to extract and invest in crowd techniques, as they tap into these low-cost solutions to manage understanding and engagement on a global scale, one that is unable to be achieved without the IoT and low cost of technology?

In the next post, we will explore a host of current issues…

We need to draw out numerous concerns, constraints, obstacles and build the case towards embracing crowdsourcing in more significant ways. We will look at current concerns, obstacles, and challenges, as well as lay out a thinking-through process, describe valuable attributes and the varied choices we need to consider.