Leveraging the power of the crowd – It’s not a mob mentality

Crowdsourcing is one of those words that means different things to different people. For our purposes, Daren Brabham defines it as, "Crowdsourcing it an online distributed problem solving and production model that uses the power of online communities to meet organizational needs."

Brabham is an Assistant Professor at the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at USC. He also wrote the book, Crowdsourcing. Brabham told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that by opening up a problem to a large community, you get brand new perspectives.

"We've seen mechanisms like crowdsourcing happening for hundreds and hundreds of years, but I would argue that the internet and the web 2.0 era, qualitatively changed things. The internet makes things faster and provides a further reach," said Brabham. 

Four types of problems crowdsourcing solves well

  1. Information on hand that you need analyzed
  2. When you don't know where information is, you mobilize an online community to go find it and bring it back in a common source
  3. Scientifically empirical data
  4. Design problems where there aren't really right answers

"Crowdsourcing doesn't work well when there is too much control happening in the organization or too much control on the crowd side," said Brabham.

Power of the Crowd

"By opening up a problem and saying here are the parameters, you get a wide spectrum of input. A geologist can solve a botanist problem. When you open it up you get marginality where people on the edge of a problem can see it differently," said Brabham.  

Government's Spectrum of Support

On the outset of a problem being sent to the crowd the government can say:

  • Whatever the crowd says we will do
  • Whatever the crowd says we will take into consideration
  • The community can pick the top ten and a panel of experts will decide the winner
  • The government experts can pick a top 10 and the crowd can pick a winner

"The hybrid approach is usually the best option," said Brabham.

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