For more than two years, thousands of professional archeologists, armchair detectives, and amateur historians have joined forces to try and unearth the location of Ghengis Khan's tomb in Mongolia. These Internet-connected associates use modern collaboration, social media, and satellite technology; experts follow up on the most promising leads on horseback, checking out regions that may have been unvisited by humans for centuries.
National Geographic Digital Media's "Field Expedition: Mongolia -- Valley of the Khans Project" is only one example of crowdsourcing, of course.
If the action on the football field doesn't hold your attention on Feb. 3, you can always count the crowdsourced commercials. There'll be at least a handful, including ads from Doritos, Ford, Chevrolet, and Pepsi. In fact, Pepsi plans to crowdsource the Superbowl Halftime intro to Beyonce's performance, using fan-submitted photos of Pepsi-arranged poses in a video.
These are international brands, of course, with tens or hundreds of thousands -- even millions -- of followers and fans. That doesn't mean, however, that midsized companies should dismiss crowdsourcing, though, as a gimmick for fad startups or giant corporations.
Although your marketing department or ad agency may not generate the same results as Doritos for its ad contest, crowdsourcing within your organization, from partners, suppliers, and customers, is an invaluable way to advance beyond traditional surveys and build upon the relationships you've already forged. Instead of asking what they like or dislike about your company or brand, pose a specific question or challenge to those already invested in your firm.
More companies are turning to internal crowdsourcing, said Dmitry Valyanov, CEO of Bitrix24, developer of a high-end intranet, in a statement.
Giving Power to the People
Crowdsourcing exponentially increases your midsized company's mind power.
Whereas a few years ago companies would simply outsource their work through eLance.com or other crowdsourcing sites, now they are using more and more 'internal crowdsourcing', that is relying on collaboration among their own employees to produce results. Having seen the potential of crowdsourcing through external experience, they are trying to replicate this effective method inside the company when possible.
Although the reasons and results vary widely, there are about eight steps to crowdsourcing, according to BusinessLeads.
- Company has a problem
- Organization shares this problem online, via social media
- The online "crowd" or community asked to resolve issue
- Members submit suggestions
- Crowd then reviews these suggestions
- Company rewards those who provided the best solutions
- Organization owns those winning solutions
- Business implements the resolutions -- and profits.
These rough guidelines work across multiple departments. Think about one of the challenges you face today, whether it's what to include on your redesigned website, how best to train employees on the new enterprise content management system, or best-practices for BYOD. How about outside tech? Then consider business issues such as retaining top employees during a salary freeze, improving call center response time, or reducing goods damaged in transit. Inviting opinions from those involved throughout any process will generate original thought and encourage discussion, spurring even better concepts.
It's also another way to underscore your organization's commitment to this community. After all, if you didn't care what employees, partners, customers, and suppliers thought; if you didn't want their opinions on how to become an even better employer, contractor, or vendor -- you wouldn't ask.