Crowdsourcing goes mainstream, shaping organizations and the future of work

Crowdsourcing is rapidly gaining visibility as a mainstream business topic. The current issue of Outsource magazine has a good article titled The Road of the Crowd. It was written by Steve Bynghall, who produced the recent IBF24 event run by Intranet Benchmarking Forum, and who is collaborating with me on some projects.

It’s a good article providing a nice overview of the field, and well worth reading in full. Here are some of my quotes used in the piece.

“Crowdsourcing isn’t always the right model. Sometimes things are better done in-house,” says Ross Dawson. “But those organisations that choose the right tasks for crowdsourcing and approach it well will build significant advantages over their competitors. Cost and efficiency are often less important than simply being able to get highly talented workers to complement the skills of your staff.”

One of the biggest mistakes I see is that crowdsourcing is seen primarily as a way of getting things done more cheaply. Taking that approach often leads to problems that are more expensive than the costs saved. Certainly crowdsourcing can result in cost efficiencies, but the greatest value is from tapping deeper and broader talent pools which you can get both structured and flexible access to. This is a great facilitator of building adaptable organizations.

The market is expected to keep on growing. “The growth in the use of crowdsourcing by small and mid-sized businesses is extraordinary,” says Dawson. “Even so there is enormous growth potential yet as more see the possibilities.”

It seems that most businesspeople have heard of crowdsourcing, and a significant number now have had some sort of exposure to the tools and processes. With both people understanding the possibilities, and improved crowdsourcing processes being developed by the major platforms, the current very high pace of growth could be sustained for some years to come.

The longer-term implications are harder to predict, but they could be far-reaching. Ross Dawson believes that crowdsourcing will be fundamental to the future of work.

“The reality of global distributed work is going to change how we work, the work we do, and the shape of organisations,” he says. “Crowdsourcing will evolve into an integral accepted part of how many businesses operate.”

The inevitable long-term outcome of an intensely connected world is that work is distributed globally. We are now far enough down the track to get a clearer picture of the shape distributed work will take. Crowdsourcing will be a good description for much of that landscap.e