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What is the Crowdsourcing recipe for success?

While our livelihood at PubliVate revolves around crowdsourcing (or ideation, innovation management, idea sourcing, idea collection…would be good to land on a common title…part of the growing up process, I suppose), it has been fascinating over the last few years to watch the area evolve.

A central focus for us from our earliest days has been believing, developing, and continuing to try and perfect the crowdsourcing framework and process for our marketplace (public sector). We started on day one to build the framework and methodology because –particularly in the public sector – we felt that success and – to be more specific – allowing public sector organizations to achieve the outcome that they wanted, was dependent on a lifecycle approach to crowdsourcing. Passing them a platform (or other tool) or a framework on its own might let them conduct a crowdsourcing initiatives but would not consistently ensure they reached the tangible outcomes they wanted.

There has been some interesting thoughts on ideation over the last few weeks. Dustin Haisler and Margarita Quihuis penned a blog on picking a crowdsourcing platform. It was a timely read for me as I was putting together this blog. It certainly pulled a few comments from those of us in the crowdsourcing business and was a good effort on their part. As mentioned to them, their focus was on the platform, undoubtedly an integral piece of the process but in our opinion only one piece of the solution. Dustin and Margarita had two categories of platform; specific-task motivated and structured-idea collection. Our prediction is that you will see a blurring of those lines in the coming months and years as platforms become more robust and agile.

In the same vein there was an opinion piece from Scott Belsky in BusinessWeek. His take was that crowdsourcing was broken and needed to be fixed. There was certainly more that we agreed with than disagreed with in Scott’s piece. The main area of agreement was that crowdsourcing remains in its infancy and that it will continue to evolve and grow, perhaps well beyond what most people believe in terms of its effects and importance.

Our philosophy at the beginning of the PubliVate journey aligned to what an old boss use to say to me, “horses for courses”. In other words, each specific crowdsourcing engagement has its own unique DNA identified by a set of variables of which include everything from objectives desired, question(s) to be asked, participants to be engaged, timelines and milestones, and, of course, marketplace you are working in, among other things.

Let’s dial down on business objective(s) that a given client might want to obtain:

* Is it the seeking and rating of ideas against a question posed?
* Do you want anyone to participate? Do you want to target the right people for your engagement? Have a plan for building momentum and interest around your engagement?
* Do you want the creation/augmentation of Communities of Interest to be a primary or secondary objective…maybe not at all?
* Any desire to increase and get value from macro data (content analysis and trends) in your engagement?
* What level of support do you need/want to transition the right ideas to implementation (i.e. how far down the idea funnel do you want to take the engagement)?

And that’s off the top of my head and scraping the surface of the various objectives and drivers – in one area – that can vary from one crowdsourcing initiative to the next.

Obviously, given that we have spent a great deal of time and effort to develop an end-to-end solution that our clients have had strong success with, we think successful crowdsourcing for our marketplace involves more than a platform. In no small part this is because their business objectives tend to go past the seeking and rating of ideas. Moreover the structures, methodology, artefacts and supporting tools are aimed squarely at the public sector and their characteristics. Is the public sector different than the private sector? Off the top of my head…culture, procurement, recognition, business objectives, measurements and outcomes…would tell me that it is. Providing a seamless solution that aligns squarely to that marketplace just makes sense to us. Moreover, as with any specialization, your partners receive incremental benefit each time that you step into the ring with them for an engagement.

Will there be crowdsourcing providers that concentrate just on health or banking? Probably. There already are innovation management companies that focus on the auto and manufacturing sector and have been doing so for a number of years. Horses for courses.

So, is there a recipe for crowdsourcing? There are probably a few hundred already. In time, we believe, there will be cookbooks and recipe variations for business verticals, community and not for profit organizations, and all jurisdictions and flavours. For us, we are adding to the public sector crowdsourcing cookbook everyday.


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I totally agree and think we are just in the infancy of learning ideation. I think there are a lot of key variables to play with from time to audience to rewards. Plus I think expectations should vary by topic – questions for the president will generally spark a much larger and different audience than ideation about the next FCC regulation.