Crowd Science for business: improve your product and engage early customers

Crowd Science (CS) is an emerging concept that is helping educational and public organisations leverage the power of large communities to solve some of their most pressing challenges. But this instrument is not limited to scientific research: private businesses, including technology start-ups, can benefit from this model as well.

Examples of Crowd Science projects

Some of the most known projects that have used Crowd Science include Galaxy Zoo (see a list here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_citizen_science_projects). At the same time, there are less known commercial services that use the same principles. Crowd Science is essentially a platform that serves as a tool to engage the audience and collect the results while providing to the participants incentives which are often non-material in nature. There is usually an algorithm that processes, cleans and analyses the entries. As an example, SoapBox software collects creative ideas while Procter&Gamble seeks suggestions on product development and improvements.

Within the lean innovation approach, constant learning is paramount to the successful adjustment to changing market requirements, and learning from the customer is the best way of doing that. But unlike Crowdsourcing, Crowd Science aims at not just at collecting users’ contributions, but exploring and creating new services and products, ideas and solutions as a part of a larger coordinated effort.

According to the principles outlined by independent science organisations, Science involves investigating new phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, correcting and integrating existing pieces of information. In this context, CS can generate valuable scientific data on various aspects related to your company strategy, product and marketing. So having said this, how do you ensure that this technique brings the desired outcomes and also supports your brand mission, vision and positioning?

Five steps to a successful Crowd Science project

  1. You need to set a genuine long-term purpose beyond immediate business needs and cash-generation. Think how having access to user-generated data can help you to make the world a better place in accordance with your mission.
  2. Give them tools. Whether on an app or a web page, enable users to provide the quality inputs.
  3. Your volunteers need to receive feedback, and overall feel like true and valued scientists. Pro-active role differentiates CS from distributed computing or passive data sharing, and delivers the levels of commitment that are not possible with other forms of research.
  4. Consider CS-enabled corporate policy-making as one of the innovative ways to engage with the employees, wider shareholder audience and customers. With CSR (corporate social responsibility) being a hot topic, this is a perfect way to give a voice to your stakeholders.
  5. Incentivise. Benefits may be learning, enjoyment, satisfaction of curiosity, social benefits and so on.

Open-source tools for Crowd Science

There are many tools that can help you to create your own CS platform and a good example is PyBossa, which is also open-source and free. Skein is releasing a new Crowd Science project that uses PyBossa as a platform to crowdsource how to ‘catalogise’ of one of the largest libraries in the world.

Conclusion

Crowd Science is a great way to innovate and get access to the cost-effectiveness of citizen science data, increase your customer affinity and beat the competition on the innovation front. Keeping in mind that the focus here is on the altruistic goal of making the world better, will keep your effort authentic and inspiring to larger audiences.

Skein is a Digital Innovation company. See more of what we do and contact us at Skein.co.

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