Crowdsourcing: What Is It?
Crowdsourcing is an open and shared outsourcing model , whose purpose is to bring different people together around the accomplishment of a task or the solution of a problem.
The term crowdsourcing is the union of two English words: crowd (crowd) and outsourcing (outsourcing).
That is, outsourcing to the crowd.
The creation of the concept is attributed to Wired Magazine editors Jeff Howe and Mark Robinson in 2005 during research into how companies used the internet to outsource services .
In fact, the internet is an excellent tool to leverage crowdsourcing, given its ability to bring together a large number of people with different knowledge and experiences .
In general, crowdsourcing is mediated by online platforms and works as an open invitation.
Those interested in contributing to the project or task may receive cash or recognition, depending on the interest and conditions of the crowdsources, the organization outsourcing the work.
Imagine a large food company that wants to find ways to reduce or eliminate sugar or salt from food without compromising on taste.
A cash reward contest can attract people from all over the world with different backgrounds of knowledge, such as researchers, students and scientists.
Science itself develops like this, as a “decentralized crowdsourcing”.
A scientist discovers something new, drawing on some previously tested knowledge , and publicizes his discovery, for example, on the internet or in specialized publications.
Another scientist reads the paper, runs new tests, and finds a way to further improve that science, which in turn will form the basis for future discoveries.
What Is Crowdsourcing For?
Crowdsourcing can be used for a variety of purposes , from the simplest to the most complicated.
The main purposes are:
- To evaluate
A company that wants to reduce labor costs can outsource tedious and repetitive tasks to the crowd at a lower cost than formal outsourcing.
You can also use crowdsourcing as a strategy to develop or improve a product through an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) .
Some online platforms specialize in micro-tasks and have recruits all over the world.
They are usually simple jobs, paid according to each task completed.
Others are dedicated to solving problems that require advanced technical knowledge .
In such cases, the reward can be substantial amounts of money or share of the results of the product, if the solution is, in fact, a success.
The incentive should be proportionate to the size of the challenge.
Otherwise, the initiative may not attract the right collaborators and jeopardize the development of the project.
Crowdsourcing: How Does It Work?
Crowdsourcing works as a connection between those who need to create something new, solve a problem or improve a process and those who have the capacity and conditions to do so.
Even NASA , the US space agency, uses crowdsourcing in its open innovation projects, such as developing algorithms that can improve the performance of robot astronauts.
In some cases, crowdsourcing works as an open outsourcing for a specific activity.
It can be fundraising for a social work , process improvement on a production line or color suggestions for a packaging designer.
But there are situations where collaboration needs to be permanent, as in the case of Waze, a GPS navigation application.
Without the constant, real-time collaboration of users , the system would not have reliable data to plot efficient routes and provide drivers with information about traffic conditions.
These are collective contribution situations where quantity makes all the difference.
The more data produced by users, the better.
What Are The Main Benefits Of Crowdsourcing?
If two heads are better than one, imagine hundreds of brains burning neurons around a common goal.
Crowdsourcing is like a brainstorm , only powered by new technologies .
Through the participatory contribution model, it is possible to have access to a network of “experts”, “specialists” and “consultants” without, necessarily, formally hiring them or meeting them in a room.
Among the main advantages of crowdsourcing, we can mention:
It is possible to extract great ideas, test products or build great projects from varied suggestions at a much lower cost than conventional outsourcing .
Depending on the type of project, through crowdsourcing it is possible to gather suggestions and ideas from different participants and compose a solution as a large mosaic.
It’s up to the project manager to filter out the good suggestions from the ones that don’t make sense and put the pieces together.
Participation Of Different Talents And Experts
If the project requires sophisticated levels of technical skills, through crowdsourcing you can count on the collaboration of great professionals who are eager to share their ideas with someone.
Universities and research centers, for example, are true granaries of knowledge production.
Collective wisdom is a set of diverse experiences and knowledge that help the project author to think beyond the box.
In this aspect, it is also important to consider the contributions of those who think differently.
Opposing opinions can make sense, so don’t dismiss them without thinking about it first.
It is also possible that, through crowdsourcing, your company creates a network of professional engagement that evolves into future partnerships or permanent jobs .
After all, with the internet and new technological tools, there are no longer barriers of space and time for different types of work.
It is possible to assemble an interdisciplinary team with members from any corner of the world without any difficulty.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Crowdsourcing?
There are also disadvantages to adopting crowdsourcing, whether for short-term tasks or ongoing collaboration.
The main ones are:
Suggestions From Unqualified People
As crowdsourcing is an open invitation made through the internet and therefore global in scope, don’t expect participation only from high profile professionals.
Depending on the project, you may also receive irrelevant contributions from unqualified people.
Low Quality Work
Especially when crowdsourcing low-paying micro-tasks or voluntary collaboration, it is common to see a lot of low-quality work.
Low remuneration is one of the points debated by critics of the crowdsourcing model.
If, on the one hand, outsourcing to the crowd reduces project costs, on the other hand, it requires mechanisms to separate relevant contributions from meaningless ones.
Malicious Crowd workers
Another risk is that the project collaborator acts in bad faith , especially in crowdsourcing content production or similar.
Depending on the type of work, if many people participate, errors may be corrected by other members.
It is the idea that in a large universe of contributions, information is refined more accurately than under the individual analysis of an expert.
In any case, it is still a risk and a disadvantage.
How To Implement Crowdsourcing In Your Company?
The implementation of crowdsourcing in your company can happen to a greater or lesser degree, depending on your needs.
You can adopt the collaborative method to vote polls, perform repetitive functions, capture ideas or fundraise.
Marketing , for example, is a sector that has benefited greatly from crowdsourcing.
After all, you don’t need a publicity degree to develop a great idea.
Companies that produce software also frequently use crowdsourcing (also called crowd testing) to test, identify bugs, or receive suggestions.
To successfully implement crowdsourcing in your company, however, you need to pay attention to some details, such as:
- Create a collaborative culture : Modern companies such as startups are more collaborative than traditional companies and therefore more susceptible to crowdsourcing. However, an organization with a well-defined hierarchy can also be successful, as long as it privileges the collaborative culture, as well as ideas and opinions.
- Map the sectors likely to benefit from the initiative: it could be marketing, HR, some production process or a new product line. You need to define whether you will use crowdsourcing for a specific project or permanently, in addition to selecting those responsible for each project and establishing criteria for reward, deadline, etc.
- Choose the right technology: There are different types of crowdsourcing platforms on the market that can be used by your company, depending on the task or project you intend to perform. But if it is something very specific, it may be necessary to create your own technology.
- Be careful not to waste good ideas: if the objective of your project is more quantitative, you may be able to process the information through automated systems. Artificial intelligence has come a long way in this regard. But if it is more qualitative, such as problem creation or problem solving, then selective analysis will be required. In that case, be judicious and be careful not to throw good ideas in the trash.
What Are The Best Crowdsourcing Platforms?
Crowdsourcing platforms are the meeting point between those who have a job to do and those who are interested in working and contributing.
Here are some examples of platforms dedicated to different purposes:
- OpenIDEO : open innovation platform that brings together people from all corners of the planet around global solutions, such as plastic bag replacement, health issues, food, among others
- We Do Logos : platform specialized in the creation of logos and other promotional materials, such as folders, mascots and slogans. It has a crowd of 130,000 designers who compete with each other for marketing projects
- GetNinjas : brings together several service categories, such as renovation, private lessons, legal assistance, technical assistance, design, technology, among others. When someone posts a project, they receive up to four quotes, choose the most appropriate one, and close the deal.
- Creative Commons : Service that freely shares open-licensed and public domain works, such as photos and videos. The contents are made available for commercial use or modification and adaptation
- Crowdtest : crowdsourcing platform that allows testing of digital applications and systems before launch. The project author can choose to pay per bug found or per test done.
Crowdsourcing And Crowdfunding: What Are The Differences?
Although they are similar terms, there are differences between crowdsourcing and crowdfunding .
As we have seen, crowdsourcing encompasses various services and projects that can range from routine tasks to spatial discoveries .
Crowdfunding is a type of crowdsourcing, but more specific.
It is a type of crowdfunding through which some entrepreneurs with good ideas, but without the resources to get them off the ground, leverage their projects.
Crowdfunding platforms are widely used by startups in early stages that need, for example, to minimally model their project before turning to more significant sources of funds.
We can say that it is an evolution of the kitty .
People who believe in the idea collaborate and may receive some gratification in return, such as participation in the results of the product, sample or prototype.
But it’s not just startups that use crowdfunding as a fundraising strategy.
Artists and non-profit organizations also use the tool to achieve their goals.
Those who use crowdfunding platforms usually have a deadline to meet the fundraising goal .
It’s all or nothing.
If you don’t get all the resources before the deadline, the project goes back to square one.
It is likely that you are familiar with or have already purchased a service or product built from crowdsourcing.
Below, check out the main success stories :
Crowdsourcing has been part of Airbnb ‘s business model since its founding in 2008.
The company connects those who have a property (or part of a property) for rent to those who are interested in alternative accommodation.
Netflix, an American provider of movies, series and documentaries via streaming, has also adopted crowdsourcing to improve user recommendation algorithms .
It is a case of open outsourcing that requires advanced technical knowledge.
The company offered a cash reward and received a flood of ideas.
The collaborative model was also adopted by the largest fast-food chain in the world.
As part of the anniversary celebrations in Germany, McDonald’s launched a campaign to create a completely new hamburger , with ingredients chosen by fans.
In just a few weeks, more than 115,000 creations were voted on by 1.5 million people.
Waze is another example of crowdsourcing as a business model.
Without the collaboration of users , there would not be such an efficient GPS navigation tool.
In addition to showing the best routes, the application informs the traffic conditions, which route is faster or slower, if there are accidents or works ahead, among other useful information for drivers.
In 2010, the two-wheeled giant hired the advertising agency Victors & Spoils for its campaigns, which uses its entire creative workforce through crowdsourcing.
The first commercial , called “No Cages”, was created from the idea of a passionate about the brand.
Coca-Cola frequently uses crowdsourcing in new product launches and brand positioning .
In 2017, the company offered $1 million to anyone who could help find a sugar substitute.
The free encyclopedia is another example of multi-handed work that would not exist without collective wisdom .
By offering free and verifiable content, Wikipedia allows everyone to edit and improve content.
The brand sought support from the consumer public in discovering new potato flavors.
As a reward, it offered the winner a prize in gold bars and a share of the product‘s net sales .