Making use of Crowd Sourcing in your Business

We’re already used to crowd sourcing where company activities that are normally done by employees are now done voluntarily by people outside the company. You can see crowd sourcing in action everyday for instance on television where news broadcasts make use of photographs and video made by non-professional like you and me.

Another Crowd source Example
Many big companies are already making use of crowd sourcing for instance Garmin and TomTom. These companies that make GPS navigation systems use knowledge of the “crowd” (their customers) to improve their maps.

For instance TomTom launched the so called MapShare program last year. The TomTom community can collectively provide fixes or updates to the maps.

Of course these companies make use of crowd sourcing because:

  • People want products that are interactive and what is more interactive then seeing the changes you’ve made return in a map that is used by millions.
  • The company saves money, because they don’t have to pay the volunteers.
  • The company will get a better product, thus more people will probably buy it in the future.

Crowd sourced Innovation

Besides using “user generated content” the companies also use the volunteers in the innovation process, where the volunteers come up with new ideas for products the company or with ideas to further improve the company’s “old products” and “services.”

You can look at it like a short of global brainstorm session or white-board session.

A good example is Google’s “10 to the 100th” project. Where people can win $10 million if they come up with ideas that can benefit all people.

(The website can be found here. Note: that the submission time has passed, but voting will start 27 January, 2009. Always interesting if you are looking for a business idea!)

Crowd Sourcing in Your Business
Of course you can use crowd sourcing in your business. Setup you own contest like Google did, although you probably can’t give such huge price for the best ideas, but even with smaller prices people will join your contest.

You can also use users of the service that you provide to reduce the number of employees that you need. An example is the website that uses users to screen the photo-entries that other users have uploaded. So called super-users can rate a uploaded photo, once a number of super-users give their ok, only then will the photo be visible on the “hot or not” website. This way the company doesn’t need to hire an employee to screen the uploaded photos, thus saving money.

Below you will find some rules you should maintain before you start a crowd source project for your business:

  1. Crowds should be constrained. There should be rules in place to maintain order, otherwise chaos is the result.
  1. Not everything can be democratic. Sometimes a core team or you as the business owner should make the ultimate decision to get things done.
  1. Crowds must retain their individuality. Of course people can disagree with others, but don’t let any member disproportionately influence the rest of the members.
  1. Crowds are better at coming up with ideas and content than with creating it. A group merely votes on the final product, but they do not actually create it, normally one or two persons create it.

Crowd sourcing can be a very powerful way for a company to reduce the number of employees needed, come up with ideas or to improve a product or service, even for small businesses. So try it! Start with a simple contest and expand it to a more difficult crowd source project.

What do you think? We like to hear your thoughts on crowd sourcing in the comments below!

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