Dabbling in Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing introduces a new, different avenue companies can use in order to operate their businesses. In their research paper,  Marian Poetz and Martin Schreier describe crowdsourcing as “outsource the phase of idea generation to a potentially large and unknown population, referred to as the “crowd,“ in the form of an open call”. Some scholars believe crowdsourcing is beneficial and adds valuable insights to companies while others believe crowdsourcing does nothing of value and that companies should stick to the ideas/innovations of their skilled professionals.

I personally think Crowdsourcing is a great idea, however I think there needs to be restructuring to the whole idea of crowdsourcing. In the “Rise of Crowdsourcing” article, we see how Mark Harmel, a freelance photographer, was significantly cut out of work as well as a profit because of a crowdsourcing site called iStockPhoto. Crowdsourcing has dramatically reduced the profits of freelance photographers like Harmel because of the abundance of top quality photos that are being offered by amateurs starting off in the field who are willing to license or sell their work for little or nothing. While I do think Crowdsourcing creates opportunities and avenues for those less known or shall I say those who may not have otherwise been exposed, I think it is necessary for some type of check and balance in order to ensure that certain industries do not die out as a whole. For example, freelance photographers and graphic designers have to worry about how they are going to make ends meet sometimes because of crowdsourcing. Many of them have had to lower or re-negotiate their prices in order to stay afloat and in business. I understand the idea of crowdsourcing is to provide content to companies and the public at minimal costs, I think there needs to be some type of system in place to ensure that everyone is being properly compensated. If an individual wants to do work for free for a particular company then that is fine, he or she can negotiate a deal with that company in their own time, but I do not agree with companies like iStockphoto selling content for $1. With cheap rates like that, a lot of fields will die out or freelance professionals or contract professionals will end up going out of business. Do you think that there needs to be a system of checks and balances when it comes to crowdsourcing? If so, what regulations do you think needs to be put in place so that crowdsourcing does not negatively impact certain fields of work?

For example, my company Verizon Wireless has a program called The Powerful Answers, which is our version of crowdsourcing. Verizon Wireless gives the “crowd” an opportunity to come up with innovative ideas and solutions that utilize technology in the healthcare and educational sectors. They award $10 million dollars in prizes to the best ideas and they give the entrants access to Verizon engineers and innovators. I think this is an amazing tradeoff for both the Company, the “crowd” who submits their ideas, as well as the consumers. In this scenario, nobody is receiving the short end of the stick, because everyone benefits and profits.

While, I believe people should benefit financially from crowdsourcing in the beginning, I have seen people who benefited from Crowdsourcing in the longterm. I have a friend who is a music producer and he has submitted beats/instrumentals for free to artists for years. Some of his beats were picked up by no-name artists, local artists for free or for a minimal costs; recently one of his beats was picked up by a rap group whose song is currently very popular and is playing on all of the major radio airwaves. Even though, he submitted the beat to the group for free, crowdsourcing has paid off for him because now he has garnered the attention of top, mainstream artists as well as record labels. He was recently offered the opportunity to submit instrumentals at Atlantic Records and they are trying to negotiate a deal with him. I think what started out as crowdsourcing for him is about to end up being financially beneficial and its about to open a lot of doors for him. Do you think that there are other fields in which starting out via crowdsourcing can lead to profitable careers? If so, which fields? If you had to start all over in your career, would you start out crowdsourcing in order to develop/build your career/professional experience?

I loved how in the research paper, we saw how the user generated ideas were better than the Professionals. I always think it is a good idea to think outside the box and get ideas from other people other than the ones who work in that field everyday. It is refreshing and it keeps things innovative and really new…and it allows companies to examine ideas they may not have thought about. The fact that some of these ideas are actually coming from consumers makes it even better. Its a win-win situation for Companies: they’re getting new innovative ideas from their consumers! Who wouldn’t want that? And I disagree on the notion that the user generated ideas/content need to collaborate with the professionals. Some of the individuals who submit their ideas/content for crowdsourcing are professionals who just are not in the field anymore. So I don’t think they should be knocked or undermined just because they are not professionally working in a job that utilizes particular skills and knowledge. And some people just dont have enough experience to get some of the professional jobs they want so I think crowdsourcing is def benefical to them as well. My main concern is just with these individuals being properly compensated. Do you think all companies should have a crowdsourcing department as well as a professional team in place when it comes to generating new innovative ideas?

I also enjoyed the article about IBM and Jamming. I think Jamming can definitely be useful in helping to tackle issues and problems in society and I love how it brings people from all different backgrounds and levels of experience together to give their insight. Do you think more companies should have jamming sessions at least once or twice a year? If so, which companies or specific fields do you think will benefit the most? Why? Which ones do you think need to stay away from Jamming as well as crowdsourcing? Why?

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8 thoughts on “Dabbling in Crowdsourcing

  1. “Do you think all companies should have a crowdsourcing department as well as a professional team in place when it comes to generating new innovative ideas?”

    No. It would never work. Pros hate the mention of crowdsourcing. It’s like a slap in the face.

    “Johnson, we know you’re a great designer, but this time we’re going to see what the masses come up with for the design.”

    Tell me how you’d react to a statement like that.

    Now … let’s say Johnson is working in his office and right down the hall is the Crowdsourcing Department. Umm, no.

    • What’s hilarious it that I had the exact same thought process to a crowdsourcing department in my head. Could you imagine coming in for an interview? “Yeah, I’m here for the crowdsourcing positing. Where do you work? Oh, you’re in design? I’m going to now…”

      • Haha I can definitely see what you guys are saying but what I meant was like a Crowdsourcing Director with a FEW recruiters (not an entire department LOL) who would bring in those people with ideas to contribute to the business/company….Does that make sense? You guys still say no?

      • The problem is, I think an in house (specific) crowdsourcing team make your team feel devalued or lower morale. You can hope that no one would ever know which projects they’re sourcing, but does that ever really work?

    • I definitely understand your statement Dave, but I want to point out it’s similar to the knowledgeable intern who is basically contributing his/her ideas as well for free. I’ve seen many of my friends outshine seasoned Professionals in their field during their internship tenure. So I understand what you’re saying but I definitely wouldn’t rule it out. Do you think Pros look at interns who are actually contributing stuff and doing better than them like a slap in the face?

      I personally wouldn’t see it that way because at the end of the day we are all working towards the best interest of the company. Right?

  2. In a way, I think that crowdsourcing sort of is the check and balance of business. Don’t get me wrong, it won’t always work, but it’s meant to keep some companies from getting too powerful by allowing others to have a voice and submit new ideas– ideally. It doesn’t always work and this is the pie in the sky hope. I don’t think you can keep it from negatively effecting business because it will do what it needs to do. A company is either going to decide to go with it or not. Maybe that’s too pessimistic in how I’m viewing it, but if the company is looking to crowdsource, then they’re willing to take the chance on what they can get.

    Your Verizon example makes me think of a program that Pepsi put into place a few years ago. Rather than invest in a Super Bowl commercial one year, they started the Pepsi Refresh Project and allowed groups to submit ideas for grant money that equaled out to the total cost of the Super Bowl commercial. It was actually a pretty neat crowdsourcing idea that allowed people to take their good ideas to impact their communities on Pepsi’s dime.

    • I actually think that is a good idea what Pepsi did (I may need to submit that to the ideas email at Verizon) Not only is it a good crowdsourcing idea that allowed people to take their good ideas to impact their communities on Pepsi’s dime but they also got to have their ideas publicly noticed and what better feeling/experience is it to be able to receive recognition and contribute something to one of your favorite companies/brands? I love when companies take my ideas/contributions into account…makes you feel like they actually care and listen to their customers. And I especially LOVE the companies that make sure the people submitting ideas are PROPERLY compensated 🙂

  3. I understand your point but how do you feel in terms of coming up with the best innovative ideas, content, products, & services through the use of crowd sourcing and professionals? What would you do from a CEO or owner perspective? I understand how you feel from the skilled professional standpoint. Also think about it from a consumer perspective? You want the best right? I guess the point I’m trying to make is that as a hired skilled professional if collaborating with someone who came from crowdsourcing is going to help my company/brand lead in our industry and maximize profits and is in the best interest of the consumers then no I’m not going to see it as a slap in the face. Because if we collaborate and he:she brings something to the table that I may not have thought of or overlooked and it ends up being extremely beneficial to the consumer and profitable to the company then we are ALL going to benefit & it’s a win-win for everyone. I think on terms of what’s best for the consumer? What’s going to keep them loyal and maximize profits?

    I think crowdsourcing can be awesome especially in cutting edge industries. But I still feel some type of way about how some people are compensated for their contributions.

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