How not to crowdsource

While the world is still figuring out this new method of collaboration, we’d like to salute a few of those fearless, bleeding-edge teams that went out and made the mistakes, so no one else had to…full disclosure, I’m passionate about crowdsourcing. I’ve spent the last three years at Cambrian House, talking to people about what they do and how crowdsourcing might help them.
Launch a brand collaboration campaign without being prepared for what people think of you

“Yeah, let’s try this whole crowdsourcing, user-generated content thing! Sounds like people really go for it.” It’s all fun and games, until a big, ol’ SUV comes to the party. Chevy Tahoe provided video clips and soundtracks to consumers to remix, edit and add text for a commercial. Turns out, consumers think the Tahoe is a gas-guzzling, environment ruining, Republican.

Be prepared for disagreement with your brand, but start with the right purpose. “Tell us why you love us” might have been a better starting point for Chevy.

Don’t plan for the unexpected

Ok, so this ends up being kind of funny. NASA asked the public to name the next ISS module….and Stephen Colbert got his viewers to vote for his name. Are you calling out to the right crowd? Asking the general public something is a great idea, but is it really crowdsourcing if one person manipulates the way an entire group votes? No, unfortunately, it isn’t. Qualifying the people you are asking to participate is just as important as asking them to participate.

This doesn’t mean eliminating negative feedback, Dell, for example, asked customers what they wanted and got a loud, “no Windows” in reply. Dell now ships computers with Linux, much to the appreciation of consumers.

Assume work to happen for free

LinkedIn recently asked its users to translate the site for a “badge of honour,” annoying professional translators. The thing is, if you are asking someone to do something for free, you are telling them what they normally get paid to do has no value. Not a great way to get on people’s Christmas card list.

On the other hand, BT Ieas (no link – it is an internal program) asks its employees for thoughts on saving the business money or making it more revenue. If they implement an idea the employee gets a percent of the money saved/gained. Cause hey – ideas aren’t free.
Expect that a utopian collectivist community to emerge

Yeah, I get it, don’t throw stones…When Cambrian House originally started, we thought we could match “founding teams” to crowdsourced ideas. That’s a little too much accountability for anyone to take on after hours when it isn’t their idea to begin with.

What does work? Involving people with passion at a level they are comfortable with. Through three years of trial, error and discovery we’ve honed in on four areas that crowdsourcing plays really well with: brand collaboration, market prediction, product innovation and research discovery.
Assume people care

Bottom line: People are busy.  Is this going to improve their life? If you don’t provide the proper incentive, it just won’t fly. As with everything else on the internet, just getting people to notice is most of the battle. The key to all of successful crowdsourcing is feeding a need that isn’t currently being met.

Crowdsourcing done well can solve seemingly insurmountable challenges, bring you closer to your brand and get stuff done. Hope this gives you a bit more insight.