There is a Russian saying: to break into the open door. It describes a situation when someone is trying to solve a problem that simply doesn’t exist. I’m always reminded of this saying when I hear complaints that crowdsourcing isn’t an ideal way to find “ideas,” especially “game-changing and disruptive.”
Crowdsourcing is failing to solve all of your problems? Oh horror! But why should it? Crowdsourcing is a method and as every method it has limited applicability. However exiting riding your Lamborghini on the highways might be, it will never fly you to the Moon.
Yes, I agree: crowdsourcing isn’t the best way to look for “ideas.” But one shouldn’t blame crowdsourcing. As I argued before, focusing on ideas (I call it the bottom-up approach) is just a wrong way to innovate, especially for organizations with limited experience in innovation programs. Much better alternative is the top-down approach: when organizations formulate problems crucial to their performance and then ask employees (or outside crowds) to crowdsource solutions to these problems.
Of course, finding solutions to problems isn’t the only way to use crowdsourcing. You can also apply it to defining problems themselves. This was exactly how Harvard Medical School identified a number of cutting-edge research topics to purse in the field of Type 1 diabetes. In addition, recently I suggested that in the future crowdsourcing may replace “traditional” market research.
But no matter how you’re going to use crowdsourcing, you have always to remember that crowdsourcing is first and foremost a question, a question that you ask a crowd of people. It doesn’t really matter what this question is about, for as long as it well-thought-out, properly defined and clearly articulated. Failing to do so will make your crowdsourcing campaign unfocused and eventually unsuccessful.
And if this happens, please, don’t say that crowdsourcing has failed to deliver. Or, as another Russian saying would put it: don’t blame the mirror for your bad looks.
Image credit: http://motivationalreads.com
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