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Forget Outsourcing, how about “Crowdsourcing”?

by Heald

I stumbled on the term “crowdsourcing” the other day in an unlikely context. Turns out museums and other non-profit organizations are tapping into the “crowd” to help them brainstorm programming ideas and solutions to organizational challenges. I saw the term “crowdsourcing” repeated many times, and started to look further into the concept.

I’m pretty excited by what I’ve found. “Crowdsourcing” was first termed so in 2006 by a Wired reporter, Jeff Howe (now doing graduate research at Harvard on this particular subject). And here’s what he means: instead of just jumping on the social media and digital bandwagon to boost your brand presence or hear people’s general opinions, you can actually tap into the online community to give you tangible assistance in developing products, programs and solutions.

The most productive method of crowdsourcing so far seems to be “Idea Jams”, or what Howe calls “suggestion boxes on steroids”. A bunch of different companies have used Idea Jams to brainstorm and create new products, getting a jumpstart on the traditional R & D department. Dell has actually taken new products to market based on user-generated ideas posted through their “IdeaStorm” (take a look: Starbucks is another player in this area, ( Toshiba is in the process of launching an effort (Toshiba Exchange) to link the tech crowd with ideas and questions about Toshiba products and sales.

What do you need to do to make Crowdsourcing effective?