Yes, you are reading it right. It indeed is Crowdsourcing and not Outsourcing that can give your business the winning edge. Unfortunately, Crowd Sourcing, a term first coined by Jeff Howe in his article The Rise Of Crowd Sourcing is not as famous as its rhyming twin- Outsourcing.
In it’s most crude form, Crowd sourcing is nothing but harnessing the power of Crowd. On a much formal note, Crowd sourcing bears the ideology "More the brains, more the Solutions"…OK, I made that up :).
But then, in all its context, that’s what Crowd sourcing is about and much more than that. We could always look for the perfect definition of Crowd Sourcing on Wikipedia. Oh, did I just mention the biggest and the best example of Crowd Sourcing. Yes, I just did, Wikipedia is indeed the best example of using the masses to create one of the biggest Knowledge repository that the world has come to terms with.
So, how does Crowd sourcing come to play when it comes to giving your business that winning edge. Come to think of it, Crowd sourcing has indeed become a business in itself. Here are some real world examples on how startups and businesses are efficiently utilizing Crowd sourcing to get that winning edge.
Innovation is the bottom line for any business. And what better way to innovate that actually meets the dynamic and constantly changing of your customer. To innovate and better yourself so that your product never fails to satisfy your customer, what better way to let the Customer define the Innovation that is needed. Sounds too good to be true.
Crowd Sourcing For Big Businesses
- Dell’s IdeaStorm is as real as it gets when it comes to outsourcing virtually the ‘R’ of it R&D. IdeaStorm is their platform to collaborate with the Customer and let him decide what DELL should come up with next to make the product better. For those who love stats, out of the 12k ideas that the community has contributed, DELL has actually implemented over 365 ideas
But, DELL is big enough to allocate resources monitoring and moderating these communities.
How does the Crowd sourcing angle fit into the Small Business Space?
The Startup World has the answers. If you have been on twitter even for a few months and followed some folks from the Internet Start up space, the importance of Crowd sourcing for the Startups is multi fold.
Crowd Sourcing For Small and New Businesses
Need a logo and can’t afford to hire an expensive designer
In comes, 99designs for the rescue. Just turn your design requirements into a contest and launch a project. And there you have hundreds of budding designers churning their best designs out for you. All for a minimum cost of 150$ odd. And given the popularity of the site, I doubt if quality gets compromised for the price
Crowdsourcing can help you get the beginner’s advantage by launching your product earlier then expected.
May be its me, but I have seen a lot of startups launching their Alphas to the crowd unlike the Beta versions more prominent. This can be a little tricky if your product is a bit too buggy, but if you have faith in the product, there is no harm in letting it loose to the public (Crowds).
Why? Because if you are solving a problem, the user might just be able to live with a few hiccups here and there. Moreover, he/she will be more than happy to help you identify those bugs since it is going to make his/her life easier.
- If you are struggling to introduce that new feature which will enhance the end user experience or rather get you a totally new segment of customer base, you only need to listen/ask. Listen to the crowd talking about a product in your niche, absorb what is missing in the existing product and work on incorporating that in your product. That’s value addition at the cost of your competitor.
Barring the first bullet point, the last two have solely come out of my real time experiences of Crowd Sourcing at work at what has become one of the best Crowds sourcing platform a.k.a Twitter.
- Buzzom, a twitter management tool is an example of listening to your target customer and give them what they want. They have been instrumental in listening keenly to their target users and ensured that the user’s desires are met. They have used twitter to constantly improve and enhance the product they offer. And that has contributed to Buzzom making waves and making it big.
- Twitsnaps, a twitter based photo sharing site is another example of using Crowd sourcing to fill the loopholes in the existing product in their niche. They have kept the user at the helm of matters and the product innovation has been on a constant upside.
All said and done, there have been valid apprehensions of whether Crowd sourcing can be effective without the so called Incentives.
Even from its definition, there has to be something for the crowd to benefit from their contribution. In most of the leading business crowd sourcing platform, monetary rewards seem to be the best incentives to get the best from the crowds
In fact, there was an interesting post about government using Crowdsourcing to reduce the electricity theft. The author raised a valid point by asking if the move had worked if not for the monetary reward for the contributors.
Interesting take on the viability of the idea of Crowd sourcing without Incentives.
Here are my two cents on why I think it is not necessarily a matter of monetary incentives, it however is to identify the kind of incentives needed.
When it comes to crowd sourcing, I think it is more a question of identifying what kind of incentive could work with the user. It need not be a monetary one at that.
Considering the above examples, crowdsourcing can dole out incentives in all its varying kinds and still get the best out of the community. And if the decision to crowd source is kept at bay for the lack of an incentive scheme, I doubt if it is a good decision. Solely for the fact that there is no way to determine what the customer/user considers a good incentive.
For its very definition, it is the crowd at play, so why not ask the crowd to decide the Incentives that will make them contribute.
What are your thoughts on the power of crowdsourcing. Do you believe that Crowd sourcing has the potential to provide a winning edge to your business?
Or do you think, it is not a worthy element to be an integral part of your business.
[This post is written by Ankit Agarwal, an ERP Consultant by profession, a wannabe entrepreneur and stock market stalker by passion]