Thursday, February 2, 2012

Crowdsourcing - A Future Beyond Innovation

Innovation Seeks to be Free, so states Principle #4 in my recently published book, Living in the Innovation Age.

And as I further elaborate in my book, “crowdsourcing,” is an example of one such innovation trend that exhibits the three requisite characteristics of being free – Openness, Participatory, and Collaborative. Crowdsourcing refers to the outsourcing of tasks that are typical performed inside an organization by employees or contractors to an unspecified, large group i.e. the crowd. I cite several examples of successful crowdsourcing projects in my book including former Federal CIO Vivek Kundra’s “Apps for Democracy” and DARPA’s next-generation combat support vehicle (XC2V) prototype contests.

Now it appears that the concept of crowdsourcing is really catching on beyond what one normally might consider the realm of innovation. Just yesterday Rita McGrath blogged on HBR about how employers are using the concept of crowdsourcing to acquire skills to get even traditional jobs done. As an example, she cites an article in the Wall Street Journal that described how AOL has been doing just that. Although this appears strikingly similar to traditional outsourcing, it’s actually not since the employer doesn't need to make any commitments at all – not even to a temporary project team, much less to permanent employees.

So, why the sudden interest in crowdsourcing? The bottom line is that in today’s roller coaster economy access to assets trumps ownership of assets. As it turns out, crowdsourcing makes gaining cost competitive and flexible  access to critical assets easier than ever before.

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