It’s funny that we are discussing crowdsourcing this week, as one of my colleagues became the “victim” of crowdsourcing last week and was not too happy about it. My colleague had been working on logo designs for a friend that was opening a gym. After spending approximately 20 hours of work on logo ideas, she learned (via Facebook) her friend had gone with someone else’s logo, which had been acquired through crowdsourcing. My colleague was very upset because not only were none of her logo designs chosen, but she was never compensated for her time spent working on the ideas. She declared to me that “crowdsourcing is the death of the design industry.” Do you agree? Have you ever been the “victim” of crowdsourcing?
As we learned from this week’s readings, there are both pros and cons to crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing was coined by Jeff Howe in a 2006 Wired article titled “The Rise of Crowdsourcing,” and defined as “the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated employee and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.”
As Howe mentions one of the benefits is it doesn’t matter where the “laborers” are, as long as they are connected to a network a company can tap into millions of potential resources. And these potential resources or “tinkerers” don’t have to be professionals or professionally trained, they can be hobbyists, part-timers/freelancers, or amateurs who are very talented and very enthusiastic. Another pro: the labor isn’t always free, but it usually is a lot cheaper than paying traditional employees. As company’s battle lower budgets and rising costs for research, crowdsourcing can be a doable alternative and in some cases a necessary alternative.
Marion K. Poetz and Martin Schreier noted several pros as well in their paper, The value of crowdsourcing: Can users really compete with professionals in generating new product ideas?, including the fact that many users may be more innovative than professionals. They noted the research done with The Bamed/MAM Group as evidence that user-generated ideas tend to be both more innovative but also more customer beneficial than professionally-generated ideas. They noted that professionals tend to be blocked from alternative solutions, because of their previous knowledge or connection with the company they are employed by.
As both Howe, Poetz and Schreier note, professionals usually have more expertise than users. “Usually” being the key word, as it clearly isn’t an absolute since we saw in several examples that user-generated content/ideas were just as good, if not better, than those created by professionals. User-generated ideas can also often times be less feasible. Professionals tend to be more capable of coming up with ideas that can be more easily developed into a product ready for a market. Another con to crowdsourcing is finding qualified users. It can be hard to measure what extent a crowd’s expertise or knowledge will be.
Overall, I think both of these readings prove a clear message: crowdsourcing is beneficial if used in collaboration with professionals. Yes, the ideas generated might be more innovative, but if professionals can’t translate them to the actual market, the ideas are for nothing. Companies need to utilize both as a resource and not use one group solely. Do you agree — should crowdsourcing be used jointly with professional staff?
The third reading this week, Jamming for a smarter planet, introduced me to a new term. A “Jam” is defined as an internet-based platform for conducting conversations through brainstorming. Working in the healthcare industry, the Jam about smarter healthcare stood out to me. My organization does utilize the electronic medical record (EMR), but we often discuss how its not used to its full potential yet. We are constantly working to improve processes and when marketing new services, incorporating the EMR increased benefits. I completely agree with all of the key insights mentioned, most importantly, the risk of human error. This is a constant battle in healthcare: technological advances vs. human instinct. You can’t use one solely, both need to play a role in healthcare. Which Jam were you most drawn to and did you agree the ideas for innovation presented?