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Crowdsourcing & the Future of Work

Posted on 1.06.2013

Getting things done does not have to be difficult – at least not if you’re familiar with and confident in crowdsourcing.

The trend of getting others (the crowd) to work on (as well as fund and/or advocate) your projects by simply outsourcing tasks has rocketed to prominence over the last few years. Despite the often negative economic perception, by any existing measurement of success, the Web world can expect the crowdsourcing trend to continue well into the future.

Crowdsourcing by definition is simply the division of labor — taking a large job, breaking it down into manageable component tasks, and then distributing it. James Rubenstein, PM of Search Metrics at Ebay and recent speaker at crowdsourcing conference Crowdopolis, thinks of crowdsourcing as “many hands make light work.”

Rubinstein uses crowdsourcing in a variety of ways at Ebay including testing inventory descriptions, testing search result quality, and measuring the efficiency of the search experience for users. Rubenstein’s presentation at Crowdopolis, “Crowdsourcing Lessons from James Bond” provided a practical view into the role that research plays in successful crowdsourcing, how to use that research to “productionalize” the process, and how to maintain positive vendor relationships.

Adoption of crowdsourcing in the enterprise has been impressive. According to Daily Crowdsource, completed “microtasks” grew nearly 500 percent in 2010, and over 350 percent in 2011. But that’s the number of tasks, not the number of enterprises using crowdsourcing. Those that use crowdsourcing tend to use it quite a bit; others, not so much. There are likely a few reasons for the slow adoption of crowdsourcing despite its apparent popularity – namely that there are numerous ways to leverage the crowd which makes understanding how it can be best utilized to achieve greater efficiency and profits in the enterprise difficult.

What types of crowdsourcing currently being used today can you consider?

Types of Crowdsourcing
Crowdsourcing can be used in a variety of ways – from design, funding, support, and task completion to name a few. The challenge in finding the right type of crowdsourcing for your enterprise depends on the type of tasks you need completed.

Design: One of the most popular ways to leverage crowdsourcing for small business without a dedicated creative department is for the purpose of design. Services including 99Designs, DesignCrowd, Prova and CrowdSpring have emerged over the past few years to offer website, banner, and logo design built by the crowd. In the case of 99Designs for example, it is possible to obtain a custom-made logo in less than 7 days for around $300 U.S. Buyers must choose from hundreds of finished designs, but in true crowdsourcing fashion, will only pay for the best.

Tasks: Arguably the most practical fit for any enterprise interested in crowdsourcing and benefiting from greater process efficiency is to break down a large unit of work to smaller individual tasks (or microtasks) that can be completed by the crowd. Say for example that you are engaging in a search engine optimization campaign and want to build an updated list that can be used for advertising. With crowdsourcing, you could ask thousands of people to visit the pages, and report back on the keywords they believe should be included. It’s possible to receive thousands of responses quickly and pay pennies for each verified response. Numerous vendors populate this “microtasking” space including Amazon with its Mechanical Turk platform, CloudCrowd and CrowdFlower to name a few.

While design and task completion are popular and practical ways to use crowdsourcing, the optimal implementation of a crowdsourcing campaign can only be determined by your enterprise. But think of the benefits that letting go of at least some control can provide. Crowdsourced innovation initiatives for example enable key stakeholders in your business (including investors, designers, marketers, even users) to collaborate towards the development of a new product, service or offering. By bringing together people with different experiences, intentions and demands, the result is often a more complete and well-reasoned creation — something every enterprise should at least try.

Crowdsourcing Caveat
While there are numerous benefits to crowdsourcing (faster, cheaper and certainly more interesting than doing it alone), there are well documented drawbacks - the most substantial of which is quality. Crowdsourcing requires, more than anything else, a commitment to provide clear instructions on what you want and need. Failure to focus on this important step will result in sifting through thousands of ideas which are off mark at best. Take the time to explain what it is you’re looking for and your enterprise will benefit from the wisdom of the crowd.

Get the Crowd in Control
To ride the wave of crowdsourcing to greater efficiency and profits for your business, it is necessary to have some background and some guidance as you begin letting others do the work for you.

Crowdsourced Funding for Startups
Getting things done is one thing, getting projects funded is another. If you are in pursuit of seed money for your next project, consider taking a funding round from the crowd. Perhaps you’ve built a mobile application for example and need a marketing budget to promote it. Using platforms like Kickstarter for example, set a funding goal amount, the deadline and indicate the rewards offered to donors. If the project is not 100% funded, all monies are returned to donors. Learn how to use these services and platform’s in WM’s Guide to Crowdfunding at

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