The digital revolution has allowed us to take huge strides in communications across the globe, connecting people who would never have known about one another only 30 years ago.
This interconnectivity of people is not just a benefit to individuals. It is also providing a significant benefit to companies, who can now harness the power of the crowd to utilize the knowledge of hundreds or even thousands of people for a tiny fraction of the price of operating an in-house team.
With companies having the ability to use this collective consciousness it gives them the ability to do several things, three of the most influential we have listed below:
The simplest but arguably most important capability that this new interconnectivity brings is that companies can easily get opinions of their customers. They are perhaps more useful to talk to about products than any designer or strategist, as they are ultimately the people who will be either buying or ignoring any new products.
With an affinity to the company, they are also likely to feel engaged through being invited to take part, meaning that there is not necessarily any large financial outlay from the company.
In addition to this, it means that there are no limitations on the numbers, geographies or availabilities of people who can take part in the focus groups. Opinions gathered can therefore be far more thorough and relevant to a variety of users, rather than those who are available in certain locations at certain times.
Design And Skills Sourcing
When designing new products, branding or even basic strategies, it is often left to a select few within a company to do the bulk of the work.
However, this meant that you either need to have the skills in house or are prepared to put your faith in a contractor to do a good job.
We now have hundreds of sites that can provide these same services, with hundreds of experts and a fraction of the price of hiring them in. For instance, 99 designs allows designers to pitch design work for new branding, receiving a reward if chosen.
It is also possible to utilize the skills of hundreds of others who have an affinity to your company or industry, who either cannot or will not work directly for you. Take Github as a prime example of this for web developers, it allows them to see the work of thousands of other users in order to improve their own skills in future.
Cloud sourcing also allows companies to take advantage of competitions on specific sites like Innocentive and Designcrowd, who can set specific challenges and the team who can come up with the best solution wins the prize.
The idea behind this being that companies can set aside a monetary prize for either a problem they have but cannot solve internally, or a societal problem that needs to be solved. For instance, some of the current crowd challenges on Innocentive are:
- Ideas to Impact: Recycling Liquid Petroleum Gas Cylinders Across Sub-Saharan Africa
- Improving Tactility of Labels
- Humidity Control for Home Food Delivery
- Noninvasive Biomarkers for Liver Fibrosis
There is a diverse mix of environmental, medical and business problems in this short list alone, and the idea of these challenges are that the brightest minds in these areas, who may have a full time job already, will dedicate time to these problems in an attempt to win the prize. It means that rather than employing one or two people with a decent level of knowledge, you may have the most passionate people on the planet who work on a specific niche subject area working on your problem.
It also means that these problems can be accurately budgeted as the mechanics behind finding the solution and the man-hours involved are nullified as there is only payment upon successful completion.