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30 July, 2020

The Power of Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing allows you to tap into the collective intelligence of the crowd to improve innovation performance or discover new ideas.

According to a McKinsey survey, 6% of executives are satisfied with their firms’ innovation performance. When it comes to organizational capabilities, lack of skill, talent, and the ability to execute ideas is mentioned frequently as a barrier to innovation. Without the right skills and capabilities, it’s difficult to achieve the desired results. This may be the primary reason why more companies are embracing the crowd.

Organizations leveraging crowdsourcing are some of the world’s most progressive and innovative like NASA, Lockheed Martin, Mozilla, XPrize, and SAP.

Power of Crowdsourcing

Seeking a better way to feed his troops, Napoleon launched a contest that changed the way people eat to this day. Napoleon used crowd-sourcing in 1795 to improve upon the prevailing food preservation methods of the time. Not surprisingly, the purpose was to better feed his army "when an invaded country was not able or inclined to sell or provide food". Confectioner Nicolas François Appert claimed the prize worth 12000 francs.

Crowdsourcing has emerged as a recent trend in India and various organizations have been employing it for a social, economic, and environmental impact. Recently, Kerala police launched a crowdsourcing campaign for infusing digital technologies for better policing. They will not only get access to diversity and richness of various ideas that exist in the minds of the citizens but also make citizens proud that they are contributing to the nation.

Recently, AB InBev India launched a campaign to build a sustainable supply chain. They crowdsourced solutions to help connect thousands of farmers to technologies and skills, ensure water access and quality in high-stress communities, partner with suppliers to increase recycling content, and add renewable electricity capacity to regional grids.

With such campaigns, the organizations can focus on their core and at the same time capitalize on external crowds to drive innovation in non-core areas.

Framing of Challenges

Framing of challenges is the key to effective crowd-sourcing. The largest problem is that change-makers spend a very little time in framing the challenges. Most challenges do not get solved because nobody frames them.

Examples of two challenges that will be good to frame-

  • How to build a sustainable and scalable model to help people in rural areas increase their incomes through rural tourism?
    Such a challenge, if opened to the crowd, will invite multiple ideas and can lead to the creation of social enterprises and micro-entrepreneurs.
  • What could be the alternate use for the FasTag that is affixed to your cars?
    By now, one would agree that thousands and thousands of such challenges can be framed and be brought to the crowds to seek solutions and monetary awards can be offered for the most innovative and scalable solutions.

Possibilities from Crowdsourcing

The organizations can aim at getting responses in multiple ways from the crowd. Here are a few examples -

1. Getting a situation analysis done: Research on why India is not self-reliant in Aluminium production is an example of a situation analysis. Such research would help in finding the root causes and each root cause could be framed as a challenge for further ideation and solution-finding.

2. Asking people for ideas: How to help farmers increase their income is an example where if you ask 500 people and you get 500 ideas and some ideas could be great to dig deeper.

3. Building new operational models: Some years ago, ITC solved a challenge on how to eliminate the middlemen from the procurement process of farm produces, and as a result they came up with e-Choupals. This can be said as inventing a new operational model.

4. Getting product designs and prototypes: How touchless dispensers could look like for better health and hygiene?
An organization could seek these answers from the crowd.

From inspiration to action, India has a big leap to take. Along with inspirational campaigns such as ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ if combined with effective framing of challenges and engaging with crowds through digital means in getting solutions could act as a catalyst and accelerate the development process.

Excerpts from Amit Kalra’s article