Crowdsourcing, while not a new phenomenon, continues to appear in new and different places all of the time. Just the other day the TV network NBC announced a new project to attempt to crowdsource new ideas for comedy shows. This NBC program, like most crowdsourcing efforts, is a nod to the (obvious) reality that no matter how many writers or producers or directors the network can employ, that there exists outside NBC thousands and thousands of talented people, and some of them probably have great ideas for comedy shows.
The same logical argument could be made for almost any company trying to tackle any problem. Need some fresh ideas for branding campaign or to design a new logo? Ask the crowd.
Trying to decide what new features to add to an existing product or service offering? Ask all of your customers - a more targeted type of crowdsourcing.
Heck, I have even seen bloggers from time to time pull off their (sad) version of crowdsourcing by asking readers, "What topics would you like me to write about?". Aside: Nothing says 'I have no ideas any more' than asking readers what they would like you to write about. A good blogger (or artist or designer or product developer) should not care too much about what 'the crowd' thinks.
But regardless, crowdsourcing is here to stay and in reading about the NBC comedy contest I came across this excellent piece by Jeffrey Philips writing on the Innovate on Purpose blog that points out some specific potential problems with the NBC approach that also provide insights into the dangers with any crowdsourcing program.
Here is a bit from the piece, (but you should definitely click over and read the entire thing)
When companies that rarely innovate attempt "open innovation" I often wonder: is this a sign that they finally understand the number and range of excellent ideas in the broader world, or is this a desperate sign that they've recognized the idea well is dry internally, and are left with nothing but an external search for ideas.
What NBC is doing is a high wire exercise, and I wonder if they are prepared for the results. While they are asking for ideas from their audience, I doubt that they've done much to change how they evaluate ideas or the internal culture of the network. If you read the article you'll see that the judge panel they are using to evaluate ideas and pilots consists of a range of comedic talent that they've featured in other shows, some successful and some that failed. If NBC really wanted to understand what people want, they'd go further, allowing crowdsourced ideas to be evaluated and ranked by the crowd. One wonders if they know who their audience is and what they want.
Some great takes there and things to think about if you are chasing the crowdsourcing carrot. Are you genuinely seeking some new or fresh approaches to round out or to validate your existing thinking? Or are you flat out tapped out of ideas in total (in that case you probably have an internal talent and management issue that runs deeper than, "What color should this button be?' questions).
And then once you get all of these crowdsourced ideas are you actually prepared to deal with them? Maybe your problem isn't a lack of ideas, it is an inability to evaluate, interpret, select, and implement the ideas that you already have. I mean how hard is it to come up with an idea? I came up with the idea for this post in about 2 minutes.
Anyway, check out Innovate on Purpose and make sure if you are jumping in to the crowdsourcing pool you have at least some idea why.