A few months ago an interesting article made its way across the web.
The story was a remarkable crowdsourcing success story involving a team of international gamers and their ability to solve a molecular structure that had baffled industry experts for years.
For a decade scientists around the globe had been unable to figure out how a protein-cutting enzyme from an AIDS-like virus found in rhesus monkeys folds. Their final attempt was presenting the molecular structure on a collaborative gaming platform called Foldit (where users are prompted to “solve puzzles for science”).
A team of 15, called the “Contenders” solved the riddle in 10 days. What left scientists stumped for 10 years was solved by gamers 365 times faster, thanks to the use of crowdsourcing.
Impressive, right? Thankfully, the tactic isn’t limited to molecular puzzles; crowdsourcing can bring major benefits to your company.
You just need to know how to use it.
So what forms of crowdsourcing are there? In 2006, Jeff Howe coined the term, saying “Crowdsourcing is the process by which the power of the many can be leveraged to accomplish feats that were once the province of a specialized few.”
Since this definition, many have viewed crowdsourcing as a way to harness the input of many outside the company and apply that feedback toward getting results and improvements.
However, what many don’t realize is that by utilizing the talents and know-how of not only your customers but your employees as well, organizations can reach new levels of success.
Therefore, the question may become, “should this be crowdsourced in-house or to the masses?”
The answer to this question is not a one-size-fits all approach. Rather it depends on the needs and goals of each organization.
Either way, here are some benefits you can look forward to by using crowdsourcing for your company.
1. Innovative (and quicker) solutions
Crowdsourcing ideas from outside the company is undoubtedly advantageous in that the talent comes searching for you leading to quicker solutions, like we read above with the gamers. Yet this same advantage can be valid within company walls. In organizations, many employees work within a specific department. Crowdsourcing in-house can help eliminate or lessen any possible divisions within the company; thus, allowing across department participation. Having out-groups collaborate could lead to innovative ideas that one department may have not seen. (And you can also gain insights into your employee’s talents and abilities.)
2. Help identify issues and gain insights
According to the WSJ, one of the five most common mistakes business leaders make about innovation is believing “that because everybody has always done it this way, this is the best way of doing things.” One CEO is quoted saying something like, that if something wasn’t the best way of doing things it would have disappeared by now. Thus, many get stuck in the rut of fear for improvement, the ‘ol why mess with a good thing comes to light.
Well customers and employees alike, can help organizations see where there is room for improvement. Employees are the people dealing with many clients day in and day out and have seen which best practices truly are best. Moreover, customers know what they like. Take Starbucks for example. They have a crowdsourcing platform called, My Starbucks Ideas in which they currently have over 28,000 ideas for improvement based on customer experiences.
Taking a step back and evaluating your work isn’t always easy, yet crowdsourcing can help you identify issues and what you might be missing to gain new insights.
3. Cost savings (and time savings)
Time is money, so let others spend their time helping your cause. There are many ways to rally customers to help your organization in designing a new logo, slogan, or even product improvements—many of which can be forms of R&D. Crowdsourcing can do basically the same thing as R&D and can get it done in a cheaper and faster way. Going out and seeing what your customers want by comments or voting can be a great method to see greater success within your company. And this also can free up employee time to help your organization in other ways.
4. Great Marketing Tool
Crowdsourcing can help create buzz about your company. This is an affordable means of advertising where customers come to your site to leave comments or find the rules for various contests. Many companies have reaped exposure from crowdsourcing (and have been able to use the comments to create highly desirable products.) The car company Fiat, was able to use crowdsourcing to have customers help design their latest range of cars the Fiat Mio.
Hopefully by this point many of you are excited about the idea of crowdsourcing.
So how do you start using it to benefit your business? The easiest way to begin making your mark is by integrating social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook by creating a call-to-action.
Using both platforms to openly ask your followers/fans and the community as a whole can lead to a real-time conversation allowing you to gain first-hand insights on your customers’ desires. Surveys can easily be created directed to both employees and customers. Moreover, depending on the level of involvement you’re wishing to receive, contests can be a great way to get concrete ideas form customers in the form of logo designs, products ideas, and whatever your organization desires.
These recommendations only scratch the surface for what’s possible for your company when using crowdsourcing.
But it’s important to keep in mind, like the opening vignette, a new perspective could make all the difference.[image: proteinbiochemist]
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