Opinion

Why you need to be crowdsourcing

4 min read

19 September 2013

Why rely on the talents of your own staff, when the whole world is waiting to help you?

This is the age of mass participation. Wikipedia is produced by millions of unpaid volunteers. Games like World of Warcraft are mass multi-player dreamscapes, where foul-mouthed kids in Luton wage war on New York hedge fund tycoons. And look at Twitter! A babbling global conversation where everyone has a voice. 

This brings us to your firm. If you are still trying to innovate in-house then you are still living in the 1990s. To zoom into the modern ere you need to take advantage of the crowd. You need to crowdsource!

Here’s how it works. Put a piece of work into the public domain and challenge the world to take it on. For example, when singer Josh Groban wants a tour poster made he puts the job on TalentHouse.com, a popular crowdsourcing site for the music industry. Even the poster selection is crowdsourced: the winner is voted on by the public. The fee is based on crowd-principles: Josh Groban won’t pay cash, but he’ll promote the winner through his social media channels. Not bad since he’s got 628,294 followers.

Lego crowdsources the design of new products. Users can create new Lego products with CAD tools, and then buy the model they created. Lego says customer satisfaction is 99.9 per cent, and design costs have been slashed by the approach.

Procter & Gamble routinely crowdsources packaging, design and research, and Starbucks allows customers to make suggestions via its My Starbucks programme.

To get design work completed the best place is 99Designs, which has hosted around a quarter of a million design competitions since being founded in 2008. It is sufficiently popular to command $35m in venture funding. Crowdsourcing is no longer just a niche interest. 

If you have a question in business you want answering then why not head for Quora? Got a query about online feedback mechanisms? You’ll find department heads at some of the world’s biggest online retailer providing detailed responses to questions such as this. 

In fact, even this article was crowdsourced. Journalists use a service called ResponseSource.com to send appeals for information to all the public relations professionals in the UK. They email their ideas direct to the journalist, making the writing of an article many times easier (have I broken a rule of the journalists guild by revealing this secret? Er, maybe).

uTest.com offers quality assurance testing, and Innocentive.com is an R&D focused site. If you want to get on board with the crowdsourcing revolution then you’ll find a plethora of tips and case-studies on Crowdsourcing.org, which calls itself “The Industry Website”.

Of course, you don’t have to accept the input of the crowd. The rock group Journey crowdsourced their band-name in 1973 via a radio-show phone in. The hated all the suggestions, and went with the idea of their roadie who came up with Journey. That’s the beauty of the process – you are always in control. Why not give it a whirl?

Charles Orton-Jones is a business journalist.