Crowdsourcing is a term (first coined in 2006) to represent a compound of “crowd” and “outsourcing” and represents a concept where an organisation uses a ‘crowd’ to deliver, or help deliver, services normally and formerly undertaken by in-house personnel.

The concept emerged alongside what are generally known as “Web 2.0” technologies – and especially social media. These, along with email, have created a connected, networked world where people are used to ‘talking to’ and dealing with strangers.

There are a number of ways in which crowdsourcing is working and moving.

One is for a firm to make an ‘open call’ to the world at large asking for ideas to solve a particular problem or redesign a product or …. The ‘reward’ might be a prize (financial or otherwise), the ‘glory’ or perhaps a share of the potential revenue.

Another is for a firm to submit a ‘need’ (for a particular product, component, service or whatever) to an agency that represents a range of suppliers (the crowd). The agency sends the request to a number of those potential suppliers who can choose to respond and bid for the business.

The advantage to the company seeking the service is that a range of potential solutions can be explored easily and cheaply (paying, if at all, only by results). Presumably, also, if the first ‘open call’ method is used, there should be a wider range of ideas … and potentially a better solution.

It is easy enough for anyone to indulge in crowdsourcing if they already have a network – such as their Twitter followers, Facebook friends or LinkedIn contacts. They simple pose a problem, ask for ideas and wait fro the responses to flood in. This can be a simple way of getting advice, information and ideas. It is cheaper than consultancy and often proves a rich source of ideas that can be integrated into an effective – and possibly innovative – solution.


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