Crowdsourcing, the term born in 2006 to describe on-line communities solving business problems, needs to step down a few levels. Rather than just being a tool for large corporations to seek business solutions from the public to enhance their profits, the moment has arrived where the small business operator who is usually overlo0ked in the collaborative problem solving process to have a platform to present problems to the world, and achieve new solutions. Why should we view “collective intelligence,” and “open innovation” on the macro scale, and not the micro scale?
Small business operators across the world need new ideas to reach the next level of productivity and efficiency. Local and regional governments need the input of those far beyond the confines of their own “staff” who work on problems. By using focused and wide ranging collaboration, employing social networking tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook, BlogTalkRadio and Twitter, the doors for innovation are flung wide open to hear the approaches of others who might solve every day problems and issues.
Take lawyers for example. Trained to look at every angle of an issue, they are only human, and may be blind to the obvious key to understanding a case. By seeking input from non-traditional sources, they may appreciate a viewpoint they never recognized, or hear a phrase which might be persuasive in closing argument to a jury. Consider the entreprenur down your street who has a start up idea but has limited experience in marketing, and seeks ideas. What of the teacher who cannot reach the minds of her students and is missing a different approach to the educational process? Asking our peers may not be enough, because they are our known peers. Sometimes the most unlikely of sources hold the truest solutions. By not presenting issues, seeking votes and feedback analysis from non-employee experts and amateurs alike, on a vast scale, small business and governments ignore obvious and willing portals to success.
Clearly the crowdsourcing concept is not new and has many existing variations. But we need to use this valuable tool and focus on micro-business problems facing the stores and offices down the street your City Hall. We don’t have to think in such grand scale as the creation of Wikipedia or the next Linux operating system when considering this grand collaboration. Properly utilized, crowd input can tackel smaller, but still crucial complexities. Our challenge, and opportunity, is to employ crowdsourcing in the problems of every day business, government and life, to collectively leap to the future.
For more on business/social problem solving, please see some examples and explanations: Wikipedia article on Crowdsourcing, Crowdsourcing WebSites, by Kelly Wheeler, JuryMatters.com and InnovationExchange.