“Being open allows you to get economies of specialization; that’s your path for gaining both economies of scope and economies of scale.”
– Henry Chesbrough, Innovation Guru
What is crowdsouring?
We live in crazy times. With a few taps on a keyboard, you can tap into talent around the world to help you with pretty much anything. Strong brands tap their customers and fans to be their biggest marketers and customer service reps. College freshmen, from the comfort of their dorm room, can raise money for just about any idea from thousands of micro-investors around the globe. Tech companies are reaping billions in value through the work of volunteers. Crowdsourcing is becoming a core strategy for all types of organizations.
Crowdsourcing is like magic; you can wave a wand and snap your fingers, and voila, a talented expert, anywhere in the world appears, eager to help you. Pure magic. Strategic leaders who leverage crowdsourcing is creating organizations that are more agile, responsive, and innovative. They are getting things done better, faster, and cheaper. Clay Shirkey, a guru on all things internet termed the concept of cognitive surplus, which is the idea that there are trillions of surplus hours of brainpower capacity across the globe, which now can be accessed through the power of the internet.
What can you crowdsource?
Strategic leaders tap into the cognitive surplus of not only their team members but from faceless strangers around the world when they need help and leverage on just about anything. You can crowdsource jobs, products, and even entire businesses.
Crowdsourcing is leveraging online communities to do work. If you need a radio commercial produced in 2 hours for a few hundred dollars, use Voice.com. If you need a personal assistant, located in India, for a few bucks a day, go to asksunday.com, and you could have one today. If you need a quality website built by an expert developer in Ukraine, go to UpWork.com or Freelancer.com. Whatever you need help with, you can tap into great talent from around the world, quickly and cheaply.
Crowdfunding your product
Go check out Kickstarter.com and get ready to be inspired, and probably spend some money. Budding entrepreneurs and companies are launching new products, and collecting funding, in exchange to be one of the first customers to get the product. Crowdfunding accelerates cash flow and lets entrepreneurs test the potential demand for their products.
Crowdsourcing a business
Organizations are crowdsourcing parts of their business or their entire business. Westin enlisted passionate customers to design their new hotel concept, using a virtual online model, where customers could configure and change the hotel.
How do you incorporate crowdsourcing in your organization?
The world of management is going through a bit of a silent revolution where global virtual networks of insourced and outsourced workers are replacing hierarchies of command and control. This new paradigm necessitates a very different mindset and orientation. Openness replaces control. Looking outwards thousands of miles away replaces looking inward for solutions. And, weeklong jobs replace lifelong loyalty. Crowdsourcing is an essential tool in this new paradigm. And, it is a tool that millennials dominate in their understanding, use, and participation. You probably already have crowdsourcing happening somewhere in your organization, whether they are the reviews or Q&A on your products or services, or someone using freelancer.com to find a talented graphic artist to help with a campaign. Here are some best practices with crowdsourcing:
Realize there is a crowdsourcing solution for almost anything
Seriously, if you need help on something, you’re in a pinch to get something done, look for a crowdsourcing solution, since it probably exists.
Start somewhere, now
If you haven’t done much crowdsourcing, start now. Start small. Do you have some data entry or financial analysis? Then go to odesk.com, freelancer.com, fiverr.com, or elance.com, post a project, and see what happens.
Write a brief
Whenever you’re trying to engage people’s cognitive surplus, you need to tap into their passion. So, when you have a Crowdsourcing project write a brief on what you are trying to accomplish, why it is important, as well as the logistics of the project.
Crowdfund a product
Sites like kickstarter.com are going to be around for a long time because they are the new innovation incubators. You throw a design of a product on the site, pre-sell it, seed the innovators in a market, test demand, generate cash to fund final development, and launch with a nice set of customers. Crowdfunding is an incredible way to de-risk and incubate great ideas.
If you Crowdsource part of your business…
Make sure you have a community of passionate people before you crowdsource any part of your business. Are people passionate about your brand and products? At one company, in three days we doubled the number of product reviews on the website, which took three years to get. We simply offered a $40 speaker (which cost us less than $10), for every review over three days. Prizes are a great way for people interested in your crowdsourcing project. To learn more, read my 115-page report on Prizes as a Source of Innovation.