Guidelines for successful crowdsourcing
Posted by Renee Hopkins Callahan
Last summer I wrote a post on the "crowdsourcing" phenomenon that started a couple of online and offline discussions. One of the people who contacted me after that post was made was Jessi Hempel of Business Week, who was researching an article on crowdsourcing. That article is in the Sept. 25 magazine, in the second issue of the INside Innovation quarterly. I've exchanged some email and had a couple of very nice conversations with Jessi, and although I am not mentioned in the article, (making me what we in the media used to call a "background interview!"), I can see the thread of some of our conversations in it. One thing in particular we discussed was "rules" or guidelines for crowdsourcing. It's pretty clear that inviting the public at large to contribute ideas could potentially result in the proverbial "drinking from a firehose" situation. The best case would be you'd spend a hugr amount of teim, energy, and money sifting through the chaos. The worst case would be that you'd just get lost and net out with nothing. In Jessi's article, the four guidelines are: 1. Be Focused -- "Vaguely defined problems get vague answers." 2. Get Your Filters Right -- "Companies need effective filters to pick the gems." 3. Tap The Right Crowds -- "Smart companies want to assemble the corwds with the most sophisticated knowledge about their business problems to maximize the impact of the small percentage of idea generators within the crowd." This speaks to a corollary of the familiar 80/20 rule -- except in the case of social networks, it's more like the 90/10 rule. About 10% of the participants create and/or build content, while about 90% passively observe. 4. Build Community Into Social Networks -- "CAsh is key to getting people to participate, but successful crowdsourcing taps into a well of passion about a product that stretches beyond monetary compensation." My rules were similar. The first two are nearly identical: 1. Focus -- Understand how you want to use these ideas; what's your business objective? how does crowdsourcing fit? Otherwise you are just looking for a needle in a haystack. 2. Filter -- You need some way to filter the ideas coming from consumers, either by setting up a system of your own, deputizing someone in your firm to be in charge of crowdsourcing. Here we diverged -- my 3 and 4 were: 3. Feed -- Figure out a way to feed those ideas into your company; the method of feeding will depend on what your focus is and what kind of filter you have set up, but without a way to figure out how to move ideas into action, you'll be spinning your wheels. 4. Fund -- Offer incentives to consumers, partly for ethical concerns and partly for business concerns -- it's been proven that reward fuels creativity, and while it's true that intrinsic reward (the joy one gets from creating new ideas) weighs more, extrinsic reward (money, recognition) helps as well and helps avoid a "crowdsourcing backlash" -- the image of your company as a slave laborer. My "fund" accomplishes many of the same things as Jessi's "build community" although is more pointedly about incentives. But we had a significant divergence on No. 3 that's worth noting. While her No. 3, "Tap Into The Right Crowds," is important, I would include it as part of No. 1, Focus. Meanwhile, my No. 3, Feed (as in "figure out how you will feed those ideas into your company") is very critical, in my opinion. My experience of working with companies on their innovation projects is that this is a sore point; quite often they really *don't* know how to bring those ideas back into their own fold. The new businesses that are being built on the crowdsourcing meme likely have this aspect built into their business model. However, a business that wants to tap into the power of consumer-generated ideas will definitely need a "feed" process or risk wasting all those bright ideas.
Some of the rules to follow for crowdsourcing to get best results are: Be focused, Filter, Feed, Fund, Right crowd and Build Community Into Social Networks. These are explained in detail in this article.
A good read thats gives the reader directions/guide/rules to successful crowdsourcing.