5 golden rules for crowdsourcing
Posted on January 20, 2012 by Hazel McHugh
Last time, we talked about how crowdsourcing and open innovation had helped find new drugs in the fight against A.I.D.S and uncovered new ideas for the US Air Force.
There really is no limit to the ways in which crowdsourcing or social communities can be put to good use. Whether it’s as serious as crowdsourcing a new constitution – as the people of Iceland recently did – or as fun as Lego Mindstorms – which created open source robots – tapping into the power of the crowd is a great way to harness mass intelligence. Encouraging that masses to join in is exactly why crowdsourcing works. In James Surowiecki’s groundbreaking book, The Wisdom of Crowds, we go back to school to learn why great minds don’t always think alike and why gathering as many people’s opinions as you can is key to finding the best answer.
He takes us to a virtual school fair and asks us to imagine a simple competition to guess the number of sweets in a jar. How would you guess? Pluck a number out of thin air? Do a quick volume calculation? Actually, the best option is to sneak a look at the answers of the 10 people who entered before you and plump for the average. If you manage to look at 20 people you’ll get even closer, 100 and you’ll most likely walk away with the prize. Put like that, why do we ever make decisions alone. Why not put everything to the public vote? Well, because not all crowds were created equal. If you’re not careful, your crowd can become a herd and blinkered group-think is the result. To make sure you create crowds that think rather than rampage, follow these 5 golden rules for crowdsourcing and, if you’re still hungry for more ways that crowdsourcing can change the world, consider this list from openinnovators.net, or search wikipedia – perhaps the greatest crowdsourcing project of them all. Rule 1 – Choose the right crowd
When it comes to a crowd, more is most definitely not less. The bigger the crowd, the lower the risk of group think developing – where everybody becomes blinkered and starts pursuing the same dead end path. To function well, crowds need a large number of heads from as many and varied disciplines as possible. The best crowds combine a mix of technical know-how with some out-of-the-box creativity.
Rule 2 – Dangle some prizes Motivation is the name of the game. Yes, if you’re trying to find a new A.I.D.S drug, the chances are people will want to help out, but ask them to come up with a great strapline for your startup and they may need some incentive. But remember, money doesn’t talk for everyone. Choosing the right prizes for the people you want to attract is crucial. Rule 3 – Keep things simple
Breaking a big problem down into lots of smaller, simpler tasks is proven to work better. What’s more, as well as yielding better results, setting small tasks that are simpler to solve makes it more likely that people will have time to get involved… maybe even for free. Rule 4- Provide some direction
Crowds that feel valued and pointed in the right direction are not only happier and more productive but there’s less chance of creating a herd. Expect to offer help along the way and step in to keep things focused when minds start to drift. Rule 5 – Look for the good in everything And finally, remember Sturgeon’s law that states that 90% of everything is sheer rubbish. Yes, you’ll generate a lot of ideas that don’t work, but in amongst them will be the 10% that do work. And they could be a goldmine for the future.
There's really no limit to the ways in which crowdsourcing or social communities can be put to good use. Whether it’s as serious as crowdsourcing a new constitution – as the people of Iceland recently did – or as fun as Lego Mindstorms – which created open source robots – tapping into the power of the crowd is a great way to harness mass intelligence.
Here are the 5 golden rules for crowdsourcing :
Rule 1 – Choose the right crowd
Rule 2 – Dangle some prizes
Rule 3 – Keep things simple
Rule 4- Provide some direction
Rule 5 – Look for the good in everything