Is crowdsourcing the future of business innovation?
The rising phenomenon of crowdsourcing is bringing strong, profitable ideas to market at a pace previously unimagined. Crowdsourcing is a unique way of obtaining research and feedback for product development or seeking out innovative solutions to a range of problems. Success stories born from crowdsourcing include the pebble smart watch and a Veronica Mars feature film.
Two popular crowdsourcing platforms are Topcoder and Innocentive
Topcoder’s mission is “to reward and recognize the world’s best designers, developers and data scientists for honing and improving their skills” this crowdsourcing platform is based upon a community of competition. The members, or ‘competitors’ work on challenges faced by Topcoder’s customer base, a mix of Global 2000 companies.
Topcoder creates challenges that are broken down into three ‘tracks’ – design, development and data science. These are further categorised into specific disciplines such as graphic design, algorithms and code development. The site operates on its own rating system that rates competitors on their solutions and reliability. Each solution submitted is subjected to a peer review as a means of quality control and a way of providing feedback to contributors. Entrance into the ‘Winner’s Circle’ and merit badges are awarded to those who win the challenges.
Topcoder provides an innovative way for those working in the web design industry to collaborate with each other and improve best practice across the trade.
Crowdsourcing works by taking advantage of the collective intelligence and opinions of as many people as possible. Innocentive, a crowdsourcing platform, aims to provide research and development, innovation and product development through “engaging thousands, or even millions of professionals who provide solutions and novel ideas”. Users can submit ideas for feedback, problems for solutions and questions for research.
Innocentive has also developed ‘Innocentive at work’, a cloud based application that is designed to create ‘innovation communities’ from groups of employees, partners and customers. This allows private crowdsourcing within corporations and agencies, giving them a cost effective way of collaboration and a much larger outreach.
Again, as with Topcoder, Innocentive has a community of competition approach whereby contributors compete to provide solutions and ideas in their respective fields. Innocentive also prides itself on standing apart from other innovation providers in that customers only pay for results, not for work undertaken or failed ideas. Innocentive calls this a ‘fundamental change in the economics of innovation’.
Crowdsourcing is also an inventive way of developing new products. Threadless, a t-shirt printing company asks artists from around the world to submit designs for their products. Members of the ‘Threadless community’ review and score the designs and the best ones are printed and sold earning the artists royalties from the sales.
Still a relatively new way of problem solving, product development and market research, crowdsourcing has a lot of potential for future application. Recent developments have seen it being used by government officials such as New Zealand’s Green Party MP Gareth Hughes. Hughes used crowdsourcing as a way of gaining feedback and improvements on a draft of an internet rights bill that his party was to put forward to its government.
And if you have a great idea, but no cash to finance the next big thing, read about crowdfunding here.
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