Crowdsourcing Grows Up: 7 Indicators it’s here to stay

Crowdsourcing Grows Up: 7 Indicators it's here to stayIt’s been almost ten years since James Surowiecki published The Wisdom of Crowds, which launched the notion that there was wisdom, and indeed robust solutions to be harvested from “crowds” that far exceeded comparable individual efforts.

According to Surowiecki, these key criteria separate wise crowds from irrational ones:

Criteria Description
Diversity of opinion Each person should have private information even if it’s just an eccentric interpretation of the known facts.
Independence People’s opinions aren’t determined by the opinions of those around them.
Decentralization People are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge.
Aggregation Some mechanism exists for turning private judgments into a collective decision.

In parallel, aggregation platforms – often called Idea Management software were coming into being and in the decade since have matured, grown up, and become standard operating procedure for businesses solving problems of all kinds via crowdsourcing.

Initially, these platforms were tuned towards new product development, however, savvy companies recognize that the “crowd” has utility for all manner of problem solving.  Which is good because there are no shortage of problems to be solved. HYPE Innovation, one of the oldest and most respected Idea Management software companies has hundreds of active installations of their software around the world.

The following indicators that crowdsourcing has indeed matured came from a presentation by HYPE’s Director of Consulting, Colin Nelson, at the Front End of Innovation in Boston last week.

1.  Crowdsourcing as a capability across the whole enterprise is being imbedded.  And it’s being deployed as a sustainable capability that honors and recognizes that “everyone who works here” can improve and innovate the way things are done in addition to contributing to the pipeline of new products and services.

2.  Crowdsourcing has moved beyond R&D and product development, and is being used by all parts of the enterprise – for software development, new marketing campaigns, customer service, procurement, you name it.  It goes anywhere there are problems to be solved and opportunity spaces to be mined.

3. The fundamental assumption behind crowdsourcing has become lore: engaging collective expertise is a full fledged best practice.  And like most best practices, only a small percentage of the enterprise use them in a sustained way.

4.  One indicator of maturity is the use of advocate communities to ensure that crowdsourcing is seeded, understood, valued and nurtured as a practice across the enterprise.

5. Power users of Crowdsourcing investment understand that sustainability requires an investment of time and human capital.  It results in deeper engagement and serves as a leadership development activity.

6.  It turns out that the skills of advocacy are also the skills of centers of excellence, change management and deeper engagement, so creating an advocate community for crowdsourcing has multiple long- term benefits.

7.   Advocacy communities sustain the successful practice of crowdsourcing because they touch the whole process, not just ideating.

8.  Crowdsourcing is a proven way to harness the collective power of employees, suppliers, customers and stakeholders of all kind.  Advocates are one proven key to successful enterprise adoption.  You can see the complete presentation here:

http://www.slideshare.net/HYPEInnovation/harnessing-the-power-of-innovation-advocates

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Julie Anixter is the executive editor and co-founder of Innovation Excellence. She also serves as the Executive in Residence for the Disruptor Foundation. The co-author of three books, she’s working on a fourth on future innovators. She worked with Tom Peters for five years on bringing big ideas to big audiences. Now she works with the US Military, Healthcare, Education, Manufacturing and other high test innovation cultures that make a difference.


Hutch CarpenterHutch Carpenter is a Strategic Consultant with HYPE Innovation, and has worked in innovation management for over 5 years. He’s also a firm believer in the concept of jobs-to-be-done, which stresses the importance of understanding customers’ wants and needs. He’s @bhc3 on Twitter.

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