For decades, crowdsourcing has been an important idea-generation method for many companies. By bringing together a diverse and broad community of people, this type of open innovation has the potential to uncover powerful solutions and solve complex problems. If carried out well, crowdsourcing unites the "crowd" in pursuit of the common goal of gathering cutting-edge innovation knowledge and insights. 

What is crowdsourcing?  

As succinctly explained in this extract from the New York Times:  

Crowdsourcing is the practice of engaging a ‘crowd’ or group for a common goal often innovation, problem-solving, or efficiency. Crowdsourcing can take place on many different levels and across various industries (social and government). Thanks to our growing connectivity, it is now easier than ever for individuals to collectively contribute whether with ideas, time, expertise, or funds to a project or cause. This collective mobilization is crowdsourcing.” 

They go on to say: 

“This phenomenon can provide organizations with access to new ideas and solutions, deeper consumer engagement, opportunities for co-creation, optimization of tasks, and reduced costs. The internet and social media have brought organizations closer to stakeholders, laying the groundwork for new ways of collaborating and creating value together like never before.” 

To summarize, crowdsourcing is a process of group interaction aimed at achieving a mutually beneficial result. Embracing the power of the crowd is a smart move. The right software can connect people across the globe to contribute and collaborate on ideas for any type of project.  

How powerful is crowdsourcing?  

Rather than simply relying on internally generated ideas, crowdsourcing has huge potential, either as a complement to your existing innovation program or as your key method of turning concepts and challenges into impactful ideas. But it needs to be done correctly. A growing number of experts or specialized resources can ‘host’ your crowd challenge, but you need to be specific about your goals and be sure those that you work with have the right expertise. 

The ‘crowd economy' – an ecosystem of coworkers who participate through a platform to achieve beneficial goals an important part of which is crowdsourcing, has been growing recently. Will it continue to grow even more? The chances are more, yet this will be determined by those innovation managers that understand and learn the crowdsourcing practices, pitfalls, and levers to this, and that is going to be decided by organizations determined to put in the time and dedicated resources into learning, so they can translate the “emerging practices” into their practices that provide value, impact, and returns. 

What are the benefits?  

Among the many benefits of crowdsourcing, it can:   

  1. Solve problems from non-traditional sources  
  2. Fund new ideas and businesses  
  3. Identify ideas from a wide range of different perspectives 
  4. Create awareness, publicity, and value  
  5. Launch a product, service, idea, or news story  
  6. Create disruptive innovation 

Of course, the specific benefits of crowdsourcing for your organization will depend on many factors, including the impact you’re looking to achieve, the potential level of engagement with the right “crowd”, and the resource, time, and cost implications of implementing crowdsourcing and converting ideas into action,  

Every conversation, challenge, and event is likely to differ, and not being able to repeat the process will drive up the cost of crowdsourcing significantly. This requires understanding and convincing the managers that organizing and creating crowdsourced challenges or projects will reap significant rewards.  

What is the future of crowdsourcing?

What are the latest trends in crowdsourcing? 

The rise of social networks and the entrepreneurial startup culture has fueled the need for cost-effective solutions that yield valuable insights. With the diminishing effectiveness of mass marketing, limited resources, and tighter capital, organizations seek greater efficiencies. Crowdsourcing offers agility, understanding, and evidence of rapidly evolving trends, surpassing traditional research techniques in providing solutions for specific issues. 

Moreover, authenticity, transparency, trust, and credibility are undergoing significant changes. Independent voices, opinion shapers, and free agents now have unprecedented influence, impacting enterprises' products, services, and business models. Users generate content and insights that necessitate constant evaluation, refreshment, and alignment. 

The demand for faster decision-making, increased customization, employee engagement, authenticity, diverse perspectives on value, and functionality is growing. Monetization requires better understanding, security, and collaboration among vested interests. In a globally connected world, continuous attention to curation, filtering, and contextual relevance is essential. And that’s where the power of crowd intelligence comes into play and becomes a smart solution for many organizations. 

To summarize, the world is becoming more human-centered, and crowd processes are moving in the same direction. This means that more opportunities to share opinions, fewer judgments, and diversity will be the leading trends of the future. 

Final thoughts 

While crowdsourcing can offer significant benefits as part of your innovation program, several issues remain:  

  1. There needs to be a more central source of reference around crowdsourcing. Until we achieve this, the crowdsourcing process will remain fragmented, and silos of knowledge and experience will remain uncovered. 
  2. Very few people inside organizations understand how crowd collaborations work and how to organize the crowdsourcing process in their team.
  3. We will need to find and establish better ways to manage and curate crowd-based processes than we have available to us now - will these be through specialized organizations or developed on a backbone of internal practices and experience tapping into a cloud-based set of solutions you “grab and string” together to meet specific challenges?
  4. Will larger companies increasingly recognize the value of crowdsourcing for growth and innovation, or will smaller companies continue to lead the way as they are better positioned to leverage and invest in crowdsourcing as a low-cost solution to manage globally due to the Internet of Things and the low cost of technology? 

Despite the aforementioned concerns, crowdsourcing will continue to grow and gain popularity among companies. And with the help of crowdsourcing software, this process becomes even easier to implement and use for daily processes. 

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