In this day and age, it’s not just a cliché to say we’re all connected. Thanks to the internet, mobile devices, social media and more, we are all connected in a very real, practical sense. The vast majority of all people are mere milliseconds away, and through the magic of crowdsourcing, their skills, creativity and input can be yours.
Crowdsourcing is the practice of drawing resources from a larger group of people – ‘outsourcing’ to the crowd. If a company, for example, is looking for a creative name for a new product, they could try crowdsourcing it, and get hundreds of submissions from people all over the world. In the process, they might find a totally new naming direction, build an energized fan base, and add heaps of value to their product. Or they might just get flooded with a large number of unusable and silly product names – as we’re about to show, there are both good ways and bad ways to crowdsource.
How to crowdsource – four models
Crowdsourcing isn’t just ‘asking the internet’ to come up with ideas. There are many different ways to crowdsource. Harvard professor Karim Lakhani describes four models of crowdsourcing, each offering unique advantages.
Crowd Labour Markets
Crowd Labour Markets are basically online job auction sites – employers post a job description, freelancers submit proposals and asking prices, and contracts are awarded. No job is too small to post, no business too small to take part – in fact, these markets are ideal for individual contractors, who can now effortlessly connect with the whole planet, rather than just their neighbourhood or professional circle. If you have work that can comfortably be done off-site by a contractor (likely with limited communication), or want to see a few more approaches to a task on your docket, consider the crowd labour market.
Have a truly head-scratching conundrum? Consider a contest! Crowd Contests are jobs posted as contests – entries from professionals and amateurs alike are judged, and prizes are awarded. Contests truly shine when it comes to creative solutions that require out-of-the-box thinking – with so many entries, the odds of seeing something surprising are high. What’s more, contests are great for community involvement, and developing your brand awareness.
Crowd Collaborative Communities
The internet has given rise to countless communities – experts and amateurs who talk online and often collaborate on projects together, be it books, products, apps or art. Coordinating and consulting with, or outright hiring these Crowd Collaborative Communities can be a lifesaver. These large communities have a huge, diverse knowledge base – much larger than most companies’ employee pools tend to be – bringing fresh perspectives and rare expertise to projects they’re already passionate about.
If putting the fate of your company into the hands of excited strangers is too daunting, you can try letting them add to your product. Crowd Complementors make the main product more attractive for customers – like video game makers enabling users to make extra levels for their games, which costs the company little, yet can add near limitless value to their product. Building community engagement by letting that community do work for you, complements any business strategy nicely.
When to crowdsource, and why?
Companies both large and small can successfully crowdsource – small companies can gain expertise they might not need full-time, while large companies can turn part of their business process into community-building.
Not everything can be easily crowdsourced, however. Crowdsourcing is best suited to light, modular, project-based tasks – things that do not require extensive collaboration or cohesion with other project members. Things like HR, public relations, and marketing are basically never crowdsourced, and for good reason – they are ongoing processes that are deeply entwined with the company.
The best reason to crowdsource is to increase community engagement. Contests create spectacles out of what otherwise would be job postings. Collaborating with communities ensures a high-quality product that has the user base’s blessing. And helping your community create additions to your product is, well, a no-brainer.
So, when you create your next business plan, think about the many ways crowds can help you at next to no cost. Being part of a crowd can help you stand out from one.