Is Crowdsourcing Suitable For Small Businesses?
Posted on November 18, 2011
If you’re trying to resolve a problem or produce a great piece of work, it’s logical the more individuals involved the better. In any given group, usually the best ideas will come to the fore and become even better with added ideas.
That, at the least, is the concept of crowdsourcing. It’s the notion that rather than depending on one person to come up with the answer to a predicament, you ought to put out an open call for help, then wait to see what the results are.
Crowdsourcing in Real Life Situations
Crowdsourcing can be applied in several situations. And there’s no doubt that in a lot of them, it really works.
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A perfect example is open source software. It has been crowdsourced for a long time. Because the underlying source code that makes up an open source package is available to anyone who wants to change it, it’s very easy for someone with a good idea and a bit of technical know how to make a difference.
Take for example, the open sourced browser Firefox. Unlike closed-source software like Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, developments to Firefox have been created, applied and subjected to testing by the crowd.
Was it worth it? Well, you decide, but in January this year, Firefox overtook Internet Explorer as Europe’s most widely used browser. A testament to the effectiveness of crowdsourcing? Well, maybe – although other factors – like Internet Explorer’s failure to adopt modern browsing standards could have helped.
Crowdsourcing for Consumer Research
Crowdsourcing isn’t just about software development. It can be employed on virtually any circumstance where you need work doing or a problem fixing.
A common use for crowdsourcing is market research. Instead of assuming you know what your customers want, or asking a small focus group to tell you the things they think, crowdsourcing lets you exlpore much deeper and much wider.
Take Dell for example and what they did with their IdeaStorm project. Open up a website which makes it easy for people to submit, discuss and vote on ideas, then see what goes on. You never know what will emerge.
Supposedly, ideas gleaned from IdeaStorm led the computing giant to introduce light-up keys to its laptops and encouraged it to provide more colour choices to laptop buyers. Could crowdsourcing ideas lead to improvements in your products too?
Clearly, IdeaStorm has worked well for Dell, using its ample marketing budget, plus its ability to generate publicity for such a large-scale effort. But not every single company is able to create the critical mass required for such a project to bear fruit.
Graphic Design by Crowdsourcing
Small establishments enthusiastic about crowdsourcing might need to find different ways to make it work for them. An obvious option is graphic design. Why pay one logo designer to create a logo for your company, when you could crowdsource designs from a huge selection of designers on a website like 99Designs?
Here’s the way it works: you publish a brief for whatever you want designed. Then designers ‘compete’ to create the best design. For the business commissioning the task, the advantage is clear: they are able to choose from hundreds of possible options, but only have to pick and pay for one.
It sounds far too good to be true. And when you dig a little further, perhaps it really is. Will a designer who knows they probably won’t even get paid at the end of it genuinely give their all? Will they bother to invest time and energy understanding your business and its objectives, to generate a design that meets them?
In fact, will the very best designers really bother creating designs for crowdsourced projects at all?
Use Crowdsourcing Sparingly
The truth about crowdsourcing is that it’s unlikely to alter how you do things. But it can be quite a useful tool while looking for information, feedback and inspiration.
Just be wary. Crowdsourcing can promote superficiality. For example, without certain reward, you can’t expect individuals to put a whole lot of effort into helping your crowdsourcing project – particularly when you’re asking them to do something which is their livelihood.
For jobs which demand a high level of commitment – like redesigning your website, or developing a new product – crowdsourcing may not be the answer. But when you’re seeking opinions, feedback or advice, it usually is an excellent place to start.