The Future of Crowdsourcing

Why the crowd as you know it is changing, and what you can do about it.


Co-written by Daniel Charboneau.

Crowdsourcing is a buzzword that is frequently thrown out by enterprise companies, startups, social business experts & let’s not forget the social media ninjas on Twitter.

It’s been used to come up with new business ideas, solutions to social problems, funding new products , mapping environmental disasters, identifying potholes that need to be repaired and even getting someone to wait in line for your new iPhone.

It seems like everyday there are new products and services being launched that are leveraging the power of the crowd to do something.

So what’s prompting this new collective behavior?

This behavior really is not new, the crowd is simply following the preexisting laws of nature in something called Emergent Behavior. We can observe emergent behavior in everything from ant colonies to the largest of cities. The premise of emergent behavior is that we are all connected through networks (both online & offline) and that we naturally self-organize across our networks to form higher levels of order. Think about what happened with the Arab Spring, Occupy Movement & now the Ukraine. These examples demonstrate that people are self-organizing across their networks and creating change globally.

There a three primary elements fueling this behavior in the digital space:

  1. Hyperconnectivity: Our access to the Internet, knowledge-networks and each other is increasing at an astonishing rate. We’re connected through our cell phones, computers, cars & soon-to-be watches.
  2. Critical Mass: We’re all at the same party and have reached a tipping point of online connectivity. In fact, 2.4 Billion People use the Internet everyday.
  3. Energy: We’re not just consuming information online like we did in the 90s, we’re now collectively doing things, and it’s this collective action that is reverberating across the globe.
What happens every 60-seconds online. Source: PC Magazine

So where’s it all headed?

Currently each crowdsourced system is designed around a specific function. Look at the systems below and their current singular use-case.

The future is when these systems begin to play together in something we refer to as an open-crowdsourced business process.

An example open crowdsourced business process.

You can imagine this process looking like this: (1) An issue is identified; (2) Potential solutions to the problem are developed; (3) The best solution is further developed through micro-tasks by the crowd; (4) The crowd funds the final solution; (5) The solution is implemented using the crowd as a delivery mechanism; (6) The final solution is validated through social media sentiment analysis.

This is just one hypothetical process that can be applied to numerous use-cases.

What you should do about it?

  1. Start experimenting with your crowd. If your not doing anything to tap the collective insights of your employees, customers or partners- now’s the time to start. You don’t need expensive software to make use of their collective intelligence, you can start with tools like Facebook, Twitter & Google+.
  2. Look at connecting your crowdsourced processes together. If you’re already crowdsourcing processes to your people, start to look at ways you can connect the processes together. If you’re crowdsourcing problem identification from customers with one system and idea generation with another, begin to explore ways to merge these business processes together.
  3. Measure, adapt and share your experiences. As you experiment with new ways to enact change with your crowd, make sure you have a way to measure the effectiveness of the tools you’re using and a way to share your experiences with the world. It’s in all of our best interests to share our experiments and what works and what doesn’t so we don’t make the same mistakes.

Over the next few weeks we will be blogging about some crowd-centric strategies.