Crowd sourcing is a fascinating phenomenom that draws on the ‘wisdom of crowds’ to solve problems, find inspiration, gather information and tap into the knowledge of a select public to further company aims. It’s used quite a lot; sometimes it’s successful and sometimes it’s not. The most successful example is probably Threadless, a Chicago-based t-shirt making company that creates only designs submitted by their audience. Very simply, anyone can submit a t-shirt design, anyone can vote on designs submitted and the designs with the highest number of votes makes it to the manufacturing process – provided they get sufficient pre-orders, which goes to show that the owners of Threadless are pretty smart people.
University research projects also make use of crowd sourcing, as do journalists and increasingly, online marketing specialists, particularly when it comes to brand promotion and the creation of brand evangelists. But as a concept, crowd sourcing is not fool-proof, in fact, one could argue that it favours fools. Group think poses a rather serious problem. Group think requires conformity, often at the cost of invention and advancement. Aside from uninspired crowds, another problem is crowds that are too adventurous, and that want something very new and very fun and not at all practical or viable on a business front.
Crowds are volatile and the instinct it to try and control them, but when engaging in crowd sourcing projects, that is precisely what you cannot do. If you try and control your crowd, it will revolt and you’ll be in a world of trouble. The trick is to choose your crowd very carefully, target the right audience and then let them assume responsibility for whatever it is that you want them to do. Provide subtle guidance if you deem it necessary but do not interfere in the natural crowd sourcing process – cage the control freak within and learn to trust.
The presentation below outlines crowd sourcing as a concept and explores some methods of best practice; it’s not definitive, so feel free to add your two cents to the comments. In crowd sourcing, (nearly) all information is welcome.