Crowdsourcing: the Cult of the Amateur?

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We read a lot here on crowdsourcing and social media and we’ll comment from time to time on things we really like. The name of this post comes from a book by Andrew Keen, in which he posits that the lowest common denominator will dominate when crowds rule. The truth is, there are situations where crowdsourcing isn’t a good application – no one at Chaordix is about to get a mysterious lump diagnosed by a popular vote. But crowdsourcing is no great evil, either. Used appropriately, it has power to change business and human life radically for the better. Here’s a few examples of how:

  • Democratization of talent – the young woman waitressing while she decides what she wants to do with her life may actually be an undiscovered graphic design talent. By engaging with crowdsourced opportunity like threadless, crowdspring, or 99designs, she could contribute real value to business and launch her own career at the same time.
  • Widening the poolinnocentive.com combats world-scale scientific problems by matchmaking seekers and solvers. One of their discoveries has been that the knowledge was always there, but it needed to be rearranged – a new set of eyes or skillsets on a problem is sometimes all it takes to perceive the proper application of existing know-how.
  • Keeping in touch – a corporation can be a behemoth, treading through the crowd of customers with a clumsy, crushing step. Only by maintaining a real connection with the market can a business remain relevant and continue to produce products the crowd wants to consume; ignoring the opinions of the crowd can result in being abandoned by it.

As though that weren’t enough proof, professor Lawrence Lessig took the logical fallacies in Keen’s book apart when it was published, and invited the crowd to continue the analysis through a wiki. Turn on the crowd and it just might bite back! What are your thoughts on crowd wisdom?

Curious about how we scored some crowdsourcing in action – take a look.

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