Can crowdsourcing help your business?
According to Penn State researchers, crowds have characteristics that can be more or less useful depending on the organizational problem at hand.
For instance, Dell’s IdeaStorm launched in 2007, has encouraged current and potential customers to make recommendations on enhancements to Dell’s products and services. As of November 2012, the crowd had generated 18,000 ideas, of which Dell has implemented 500.
In another example, eBird.com, a collaboration between Cornell University and The National Audobon Society enlists bird watchers from across North America to document the presence or absence of specific species of birds. This crowd of bird watchers has submitted millions of observations.
While Dell and ebird.org both utilized crowdsourcing, they use different types of crowds to solve two very different problems.
For businesses interested in solving problems with crowds, not just any crowd will do. But what crowd is right?
The Penn State study, “Hanging with the right crowd: matching crowdsourcing need to crowd characteristics,” offers specifics on how to match organizational needs with the “right” crowd. The study’s authors, Lee Erickson, a Ph.D. candidate at Penn State University College of Information Science and Technology and former CEO of Erickson Barnett Marketing Agency, along with Irene Petrick, a senior lecturer of Information Science and Technology at Penn State, and Eileen Trauth, a professor in the same department, identified four areas in which crowds are commonly used to solve problems: marketing/branding, improving productivity; product/service innovation and knowledge capture.