How to make your company stand out from the crowd

New technology has the ability to create results out of numerous small and voluntary actions. With emphasis on the digital social relationship, one such powerful example is crowd-sourcing. This process allows you to outsource tasks traditionally performed by an employee to a large group of people.

Companies increasingly find themselves tapping into this creative pool because it effectively draws upon the diverse experience and knowledge from its “crowd.” The concept allows the audience to come up with innovative solutions which could be used by the firm.

Barack Obama is famously known to have crowd-sourced the finance for his election campaign. The NY Times’ Campaign finance infographic revealed that 56 per cent of Obama’s $637.3m was from small donations.

This process is not as new as it seems. Back in 1897, Sir James Murray used a similar approach to create the Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford English Dictionary called upon crowd-sourcing once more in 2012. Wikipedia is also a famous example of a website having implemented the process. 

While crowd-sourcing is considered a new and sexy concept, it actually refers to the age-old process of recruiting groups to complete tasks that would be difficult, if not impossible, for one person to complete alone.

Crowd-sourcing can change your organisation

According to psychologist and author of ‘Appreciative Inquiry for Change Management,’ Sarah Lewis, this is particularly pertinent within organisations that want to change their culture or form of staff behaviour. By crowd-sourcing the change instead of encouraging it, the process becomes faster, easier, and often less traumatic for all concerned.

The voluntary nature of the participation is more crucial rather than the paid/unpaid divide. In other words, crowd-sourcing occurs when people are not compelled to do the tasks by a job contract but volunteer to be a part of an organisational project. It is this volunteer element that makes appreciative inquiry a form of crowd-sourcing for organisational change.

Using the principles of appreciative inquiry to crowd-source change

Voluntary attendance

People are invited to attend the appreciative inquiry event. The event topic, nature of the event and the invitation itself have to be sufficiently compelling. You want people to prioritise being there of their own violation. When they make an active choice to invest their time in the event then it means they are keen to get a good return.

Voluntary participation

The voluntarism principle needs to extend to participation in any and every particular activity or discussion that is planned for the day.

Voluntary contribution

Calling on collective intelligence is a key feature of large group processes. However, people are free to choose whether and what to contribute. The event needs to create an atmosphere where people feel safe and desire to share information and dreams in order to build connections. The general principle doesn’t hold in every case, sometimes expert knowledge is more valuable and accurate than ‘the general view.’

Voluntary further action

With most appreciative inquiry based events, there is a shift from the process in the day-to-day actions in the future. This often involves forming project or work groups to progress activity. Group membership needs to be voluntary! Their desire to contribute toward change for the future needs to stem from the motivation and community built during the day.

By using appreciative inquiry in this way, you are essentially creating a form of in-house crowd-sourcing around the challenges of organisational change or adaptation.

The ideal outcome of an appreciative inquiry event is that everyone is so affected by the event process, discussions and aspirations, that they are motivated to make small changes in their own behaviour on a day-to-day basis. This will aggregate to a bigger shift and even transformation within the organisation as a whole.

Just like Obama’s fundraising, lots of small donations lead to a large campaign chest. Crowd-sourcing is a great way to get big things to happen with a small amount of effort from many people, and appreciative inquiry is a great way of bringing this into your organisation.

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