According to a 2014 Gartner prediction, 75 percent of high performing organizations were expected to use crowdsourcing by 2018.
Technology now makes it easier for organizations to access information and experience from others. In an age where you risk falling behind the pack if you are slow to solve complex issues and innovate, such capability can mean success or failure for you.
To get the best out of this approach, you have to ask yourself, “what is crowdsourcing?” Here is a closer look at the method and how it can benefit you.
What Is Crowdsourcing?
Crowdsourcing is where you use the ideas, skills, and knowledge of a collection of people (the ‘crowd’) to achieve a particular goal.
Crowdsourcing shines when you are trying to solve a complicated problem innovatively. You can also unleash the power of crowdsourcing when you want to use it to streamline an intricate process.
Do not confuse crowdsourcing with crowdfunding despite their slight overlap. With the latter, people rally around a project to project on crowdfunding sites to raise the money a campaign needs. Crowdsourcing, on the other hand, deals with building knowledge and ideas and not money.
The History of Crowdsourcing
Although the term was first brought to the public’s mind by a 2006 article, it’s been in existence for a while.
The idea of crowdsourcing, also known as the wisdom of crowds, has been taking root since early in the 20th century. The thrust of it is that many people can together deliver useful value or insight on an issue.
Take Sir Francis Galton’s crowdsourcing example back in 1907, for example. The British scientist asked the public to guess the weight of an ox. None of the 700 hundred people he asked at the fair got the right answer. However, the average of all the responses gave a number that was near the actual figure.
Today the practice has become popular in social media, commerce, and smartphone cultures, among others. In particular, the growth in popularity with crowdsourcing has been due to how easy it has become for people to be connected.
Types of Crowdfunding
There are several ways through which crowdsourcing takes place in today’s environment. Here are the primary forms.
Co-creation is where businesses or organizations collaborate with private or public individuals. Typically, these individuals are hardcore fans or early adopters). The collaboration can be on helping develop new products, systems, or services.
2. Idea Platforms
A business can develop an idea portal where its staff (or customers and fans) can share ideas. These product or service suggestions can help a firm identify the next innovation that can help serve their customer base better.
3. Open Innovation
Open innovation is an approach where a distributed number of people participate in innovation. The open innovation approach acknowledges that different people can have useful knowledge, both within and outside an organization.
Are There Any Benefits to Crowdsourcing?
It stands to reason that if bringing several people together to solve an issue works, there have to be benefits that come with the approach. Here’s why crowdsourcing is rising in popularity.
1. Unexpected Solutions
Finding solutions you would not have thought of or expected is arguably the most significant advantage of crowdsourcing.
A company or organization can fall into a predictable pattern of doing things. Whenever robust problems crop up, those within the organization tend to approach the issue as they always have.
As a result, a solution to a complicated matter might end up evading the team as they can’t step out of the metaphorical box.
Being roped into predictable thinking in a company is the reason why many consultants have flourishing careers. They come in to assist the organization to get a different point of view.
Through crowdsourcing, you can engage a diverse group of people outside the company. Consequently, your firm gains access to varying views on a single issue that can yield unexpected solutions to the problem at hand.
An excellent example of this is Unilever’s idea portal. Here, the multinational corporation makes it possible for thousands of workers and experts to provide unusual solutions to complex issues.
As different workers from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds share their ideas, the firm can identify unexpected results.
2. Reduced Management Load
Any internal innovation effort comes at a significant managerial burden. Someone has to oversee the project while hand-holding team members consistently. If you don’t, the critical thinkers in your organization might move on to something else.
Crowdfunding helps reduce the burden on the management team. Once you set the terms and conditions of the project, you open up the gates for the ideas to start streaming in.
Such a relatively hands-off strategy can help management better focus on other aspects that drive the innovation process and culture.
3. Customer Data
For businesses, idea portals can be more than just a source of potentially great insights. You can get information about the participants and analyze it to help build your buyer persona.
For example, the core demographic data on customers who submit ideas can help you identify who your early adopters are. You can also find out the channels that most effectively reach out to your customers to improve your marketing strategy.
4. Quicker Problem Solving
When you crowdsource, you are not only looking for new ideas. You’re also looking to identify them quickly.
Solving severe problems internally means that you can only go as fast as your team can think. For even the most prolific thinker, there is a limit to how quickly they can solve an issue.
It’s with this in mind that inviting a wide range of people to help tackle the same issue can move things quicker. More ideas coming in can help you identify a solution in a shorter time.
A striking example of this benefit is the Human Genome Project. To map the entire human genome code, scientists from various countries and institutions were able to complete the task in just 13 years.
Let the Crowd Work for You
Today’s organization needs to, in the words of Mark Zuckerberg, move fast and break things. For more rapid problem solving and innovation, crowdsourcing is a useful tool that helps you tap into the skills and knowledge of others. Before you can experience these benefits, you first need to ask yourself, “what is crowdsourcing?” and identify how your firm can best adopt the approach.
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