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Crowdsourcing - Whole Greater Than Sum of PartsMarch 25, 2013 by Brand Algorithms
Crowdsourcing is the practice of throwing open a task (creative, problem-solving, financial, community, knowledge-building, project-execution, product development), for completion, to a curated list of individuals and entities outside the group whose direct responsibility the completion of the task is, or to the world at large; with the objectives of executing the task in a shorter time-frame or more efficiently.
Crowdsourcing has been around for long, despite the recent hype surrounding the practice. The earliest documented instance of crowdsourcing took place in the 19TH Century (CE), when work on a new dictionary of the English language (which was later to be named The Oxford English Dictionary) was supplemented through the use of the services of volunteers, and then the general public, in English-speaking geographies, to report quotations for ordinary words.
The rise of the Internet, and the increasing amounts of time individuals spend online, have allowed the practice of crowdsourcing to be adopted more widely, and for smaller and more select tasks; thereby contributing to the recent buzz surrounding the practice. The self-organising capability of the Internet, into digital communes based on interests and credos, and the near-instantaneous flow of information between members, are the prime factors for the greater effectiveness of crowdsourcing in the Internet era.
Examples of crowdsourcing range from the well-known to the obscure, and from tasks as simple as copy-editing to those as complex as protein folding. Wikipedia is a well-known example of crowdsourcing, knowledge-documentation being the task; reCAPTCHA is another example, not explicitly known as a crowdsourced exercise, of a program that aims to digitize books, newspapers, and old radio shows, on the side, while providing authentication that a visitor to a digital property is a human; and Foldit is a freely downloadable game that uses the skills of gamers to solve protein-folding problems.
Not everything connected to crowdsourcing has to do with problem-solving or information-gathering, though. Other activities can range from financial funding for a start-up idea (kickstarter.com), to identifying growth opportunities in companies (with all employees participating, rather than just the C-suite), to uncovering new product ideas or detailing future product roadmap.
India had its share of crowdsourced exercises too. Last year companies such as Parle Agro, Hero Motocorp, and Micrograam, among many others, took the crowdsourcing route for tasks as varied as identifying locations where a snack brand was not available with the local retailer, creating a brand communications video, and connecting philanthropic urban HNIs to talented and entrepreneurial rural individuals, respectively.
The infographic below, from crowdsourcing.org, organizes the various available online crowdsourcing communities and platforms (as on November 2011) into the core functional areas in which crowdsourcing projects are initiated.
Organisations looking to utilise an external community to work on specific business assignments have to ensure that they are well-equipped and fully prepared, before embarking on a crowdsourcing exercise; especially if the external community is not a curated group. There are five domains where the organization will have to carry out its due diligence.
Authored by: Sam Oommen Thomas
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