Community involvement is Key
Crowdsourcing might sound like another one of these jargon words that only the digital guys use to try and impress everybody else around them. But it’s actually a very real and important business idea.
The term was coined by journalist Jeff Howe in 2006, who has since written and published “Crowdsourcing: Why the power of the crowd is driving the future of business” in 2008.
But what does it mean? In general the basic idea is to use the collective intelligence of the public at large to help you complete a business-related task that a company would usually do themselves or outsource. It may sound like you are only trying to get free labor out of the deal but in reality you are also trying to get a deeper understanding to what your customers really want.
The current state of the economy has forced all of us to think twice about our spending habits. Unemployed workers look at new ways to participate. Traditional paid work in their chosen field may be scarce at the moment so they are turning to crowdsourcing marketplaces such as InnoCentive, PlanetEureka, CrowdSpirit, uTest, and CrowdSpring. Participants sharpen their creative skills, stay involved with the things they love to do and—most important—get noticed.
Why is it important?
The idea of crowdsourcing is hardly new, but the difference today is that the enhancement of technology is making it possible for even larger number of people to collaborate on more complex and creative tasks, at a significantly reduced cost. Therefore the idea of using crowdsourcing for innovative new ideas is becoming more and more appealing.
Talent knocks on your door – When you need a critical task completed you might go about spending lots of money to attract the right employees. Now if you go about this in a different manner you could crowdsource the task rather than you having to go out wasting time searching for talent. Talent comes running, searching for you.
Value for Money – Crowdsourcing provides you with loads of options to choose from even if the cost is a bit higher. The winning idea doesn’t necessary need to be used to develop a new product or model but the entries can be used with further development from internal teams.
Testing ground for Research & Development - Especially when it comes to the world of online not every task you do has to be a success. Sometimes a lot is learned just from testing out of a new idea. In order to develop new products however companies invest sometimes millions in Research and Development. If this experiment fails it cost you lots of time and money. Contrary to this approach crowdsourcing offers you the same thing but in a much cheaper way. Use the masses to help you test new ideas and get valuable feedback in less time than ever.
Pitfalls – There is however also a couple of drawbacks in using crowdsourcing, the most important one is the fact that getting the masses involved also means that you will have to spend a lot more time sorting through bad ideas in order to find the half decent ones. However if you use it in a carefully planned manner with clear objectives this could become a very effective way to generate community participation and engagement.
Used in practice
Although the term may be new, the principle has been in use for some time. In-fact we have all seen crowdsourcing in action and may or may not have been aware of it. One of the most successful online examples of crowdsourcing is the collaborative encyclopedia Wikipedia that relies on a never ending flow of contribution for its success. Wikipedia's 14 million articles (3.1 million in English) have been written collaboratively by volunteers around the world, and almost all of its articles can be edited by anyone with access to the site.
Other interesting examples include ‘Galaxy Zoo’, a citizen science project that uses the public to classify a million galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.
Google launched Project 10100 at the end of September 2008. This project called for ideas to change the world by helping as many people as possible. For over a year the whole internet community added ideas with public voting taking place at the end of 2009. Google is committing $10 million to implement these projects, and their goal is to help as many people as possible. The announcement of the winning big ideas and projects is expected soon.
Trendwatching is another innovative business which gets its pool of over 8,000 “spotters” to watch for the latest thing, findings which help marketers, CEOs, researchers, and anyone else interested in the future of business and consumerism, to dream up new goods, services and experiences for their customers.
Starbucks the famous coffee house involved their customers by creating a platform where they can participate in new ideas for the brand. Starbucks received over 17,000 coffee ideas in the first 14 months since the launch of its proprietary online forum, mystarbucksidea.com.
The bottom-line is that customers are increasingly demanding participation. They want to be part of the brands by co-creating and being part of the innovative process. This has forced companies to conceive creative solutions to be competitive in this new age of consumerism.