Moving the Crowd in a New Direction
The use of crowdsourcing: the goal for me, is to engage and move the crowd towards a new direction, by encouraging out individual thinking and discovery, searching for combining these contributions; ones that lead to novel, new answers that move a challenge forward into a solution, one that has improved value over the existing.
The community is encouraged to form, lead and build, taking ideas and thinking onto discovery journeys, seeking out and building on each other’s contributions.
The individual building blocks (like Lego) connect into a collective whole, that piece together, progressively being combined, to solve a problem, to frame something that leads to an answer of meeting the challenge initially set up.
The overriding need is to release the forces within the crowd, by seeking out and gaining their engagement and connection as something ‘they’ believe they can contribute into; as here lies the discovery of many, combining and ‘feeding off’ of each other, to change the existing into the preferred.
Crowdsourcing can be powerful if harnessed well
After a fairly detailed exploratory working through crowdsourcing in this mini-series, I wanted to offer my ‘take’, to help our thinking though in formulating clearer positions in this, to see its increasing value as contributing into an innovation management system.
Crowdsourcing does offer increasing value as a contributor into our innovation management system. It can open up a real rich potential of tapping into diverse opinions that were difficult to reach in the past. Yet it does, from my perspective, need thoughtfully working through in its application and the expected end results, as each will challenge the initial assumptions and that is exactly what you will be looking for, challenging the accepted knowns and revealing the many unknowns.
Crowdsourcing can become potentially part of your heavy-armoury for innovation discovery, a rich place to seek out better innovation, often radical solutions.
In what ways?
Crowdsourcing is allowing diverse communities to come together
Crowdsourcing is allowing broader groups of people to come together, to gather around a challenge or problem and through the collective diversity of insights, experience or suggestions, offer solutions Without this collective wisdom it often would not be as possible to discover or piece together radically different answer or crack complex problems or determine pathways that would have remained undiscovered without this broad range of expertise and diversity of knowledge available through the use of our connected webs.
Today we are seeing a significant movement in crowdsourcing by the fact that many communities are forming through finding the independent voice, by collectively working on issues that would not have been as possible without these crowdsourcing platforms. Today there is a growing participation happening on-line, forming around challenges, ideas, projects, non-profits, people and important social and business issues.
They are truly organic, feeding off all the contributions
The use of crowdsourcing is growing as a vital part of discovering innovation that can transform through the tapping into a community and leverage their combined thinking, feeding off and building from each other.
The potential for discovering something radically different, solving a complex problem or simply collecting a rich array of potential innovation solutions can be discovered using crowdsourcing. It offers an exciting future, managed well.
The great thing is you (each of us participating) are the ones performing, participating and delivering your ideas, thoughts, solutions into a community of others wanting to build from this diverse thinking to contribute to the challenge offered. You are making a contribution that can potentially build into something radically different or determine a new path to explore. Participation and contribution become highly valued.
Others then begin to react to your contribution, they start reacting, responding, picking up on this surge of creative energy. Collectively you combine to begin to build something that answers a specific problem. It lets all of us in, to participate and contribute.
Getting to this point needs a lot of organising to set the scene, to provide the organisers with the connections, to see the possibilities, to allow ideas and suggestions to simply ‘flow’ and build.
Knowing what we are getting into becomes critical to want to jump in and take part
Designing the challenge becomes critical. We need to always know or believe it is crowd-worthy. It is these crowd-worthy challenges which trigger us into action.
It needs a significant thinking through if you want to delve into a real challenge; it can equally be a challenge that is simply one to ‘put out there’ to gather and illicit ‘quick’ opinions. Much of what we are doing is blurring and crowdsourcing is attempting to pick this apart to help.
Crowdsourcing comes in multiple guises
It took me some time to make these connections but these are all seeking out a digital crowd engagement. Crowdsourcing can be under social fundraising, collaborative consumption, customer co-creation, peer-to-peer economy, collective intelligence, open innovation and crowdfunding to name some, not all. They all are working within the crowd economy.
Dealing in the Crowd has become so fragmented, is this healthy or is it a present constraint?
The urgent need is to try to bring some organisation into the variables offered under the broad crowd umbrella. It can be a real labyrinth of working out what you are trying to achieve, knowing where to go to mount your crowdsourcing challenge and who to work with to believe you have the ‘best’ and most experienced platform that can manage it. There is so many ‘crowd’ platforms set around tasks, content, innovation, funding, learning, testing, media exploration, cause-related, design, competitions, services, property, lending / loans, citizen engagement and travel.
There is a directory of crowdsourcing that becomes an essential ‘go to’ place early on to get your bearings on what is out there and can help shape your thinking and needs. It seems like there are new crowdfunding platforms launching literally every day, so establishing that your choice does have the ‘right’ track record, has been around long enough to build traction and a good reputation, becomes a major task in itself. Compare and contrast and read the case histories.
Ones that spring out for me as leading the ‘crowd pack’ are Kickstarter, Rockethub, Patreon, Peerbackers, Indiegogo, Gofundme as well as Crowdcast, Quirky, Threadless and Mob4Hire.
Also, let us not forget Airbnb operates in this crowd economy. It is a very crowded (excuse the pun) and difficult place to start and figure out who to partner with. Finding the right partner to crowdsource with can clearly make or break any initiative so this validating needs to be undertaken well.
For me, Crowdsourcing can be beneficial in the following ways:
- It can deliver an awareness and buzz that provides positive publicity and value to you.
- It can qualify and test emerging ideas and the thinking through early enough to gain significant improvements or recognition that they lack scale appeal.
- It can simply be a primary source of engagement with the public and stakeholders and influencers to receive invaluable feedback and confidence of message, direction, contribution and value.
- It ‘puts out there’ crowd-based challenges that bring to the surface fresh insights and raises alternatives to adopting and adapting within your innovation activity.
- It can ‘solve’ problems from those normal non-traditional sources that it would be hard to reach and engage without a higher level of commitment.
- You can keep crowdsourcing specifically for worthy causes that build social responsibility identification and contribution.
- Make it a core part of your innovation where you are seeking out breakthrough new innovations that can radically challenge and alter existing thinking.
- You can use it for launching and evaluating a product / service / idea or news-worthy event.
- It can help drive overall spend efficiencies and saving costs through obtaining feedback and suggestions on improvements of service and seeking out comparable approaches the crowd is more likely to be aware of.
- It allows participates to engage, seek dialogue and have conversations that build a sense of identity and common purpose.
Crowdsourcing is straddling so much today but it can offer a really broad potential for ‘finding’ innovation
It needs recognition of the real potential in crowdsourcing, when structured and formed well can be highly valuable and part of our learning journey to solving problems and challenges that might not be solved by internal means alone.
The overcoming of both risk and depth of understanding of what you are trying to achieve in its use is hard work to work through. So is the art of engagement with the crowd.
The way forward: building, testing, probing, gaining experience and community understanding
I clearly would recommend you can build from small pilots towards larger scale, allowing those around to learn, value and appreciate the contribution that crowdsourcing can give us as a rich source of fresh ideas from broad or targeted communities, not easily obtained by any other means.
“Crowdsourcing is probing the experience economy, wanting to understand authenticity, explore individual views, pushing to form new connections, curate and filter lots of different stuff. Much of what we are doing is blurring, and crowdsourcing is attempting to pick this apart to help”.
Each crowd occasion will be different, that is its value, in attracting a highly diverse, hard to reach diversity to be drawn out of different communities, that needs encouraging in ways to contribute, sensing their voices are wanting to be heard and then being valued.
This tapping in and building on the diversity of thinking gives huge potential to solving so many different issues and challenges, for those willing to put in the organising commitment and who want to seek out the hidden value that lies within the crowd, in break-through ways.
image credit: energize.com
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Paul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities. Find him @paul4innovating
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