Jul 19, 2009

Crowdsourcing - PMI on when to - not to

So many people are really keen on Crowdsourcing - harnessing the Wisdom of the Crowd. But is it the right approach for all problems ? When I dissented, I found myself up against GroupThink, for daring to question Crowdsourcing's applicability in all circumstances.

The June issue of PMI's "PM Network" has a good article which tackles Crowdsourcing. I liked their comment "Crowdsourcing doesn't work for everything. Crowds won't organize into complex structures, but they will respond efficiently with simple tasks and motivation" - sourced from Chris Townsend, I-Nova Software, Lyon, France. He believes that "companies should carefully choose which project tasks are appropriate and determine how they'll manage the process .... Project teams must also have a strategy for evaluating crowdsourced results and incorporating them into the project."
Nearly 10 years ago I encountered crowdsourcing as "Future Search", being promoted by Launceston Council. I bought their book and have used it in various situations ever since.

Neighbourhood Committees, aka Precinct Committees, provided one vehicle for Local Councils around the world to use crowdsourcing in their decisionmaking processes, also specialist advisory committees. Crowdsourcing is what we did, when I chaired Wollongong City Council's Cycleway Planning Liaison Committee. Cyclist stakeholder reps advised us where cycleways should go - based on actual cyclists' use during a comprehensive revamping of the citywide strategy. These are key vehicles for enriching communities by promoting Social Capital.

Likewise crowdsourcing has been used for years in the Total Quality Management (TQM) Small Group Activity (SGA) approach to problem solving - dating at least from the 1980's. I saw some great examples of worker "ownership" of complex engineering problem solutions, when we as techo's were temporary advisers to the work crews.

However, even earlier, Sherry R Arnstein's "A Ladder of Citizen Participation" was first published in July 1969 - sharing its birthday month with NASA's Apollo - Moon Walk space exploration. It is considered by many to be the pioneer work in community consultation or "crowdsourcing". Happy 40th Birthday Crowdsourcing !

So I have found many helpful references on the value of "crowdsourcing" via the RSS feeds in my Google Reader - including in its various guises.

Looks like some innovative opportunities with the intersection of Sherry R Arnstein's Citizen Participation Ladder and Clay Shirky's Crowdsourcing via Wisdom of the Crowds

Posted via web from kerrieannesfridgemagnets's posterous

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Resonate said...

Hi Kerrie,

I like to keep Condorcet's jury theorem in mind when asking the question - 'crowd source or not?' ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Condorcet's_jury_theorem )

Basically it says that the probability the crowd will be right approaches 100% as the crowd gets bigger, if on balance the average member is more likely to be right, no matter how slightly. Unfortunatley the inverse is also true, so if you ask a crowd to resolve a dilemma where they lack expertise i.e. are slightly more likely to be wrong, the likelihood you will get the wrong answer approaches 100% as you increase the size of the crowd.
So in the community we help run for a grocer, for example, we stick to co-creating ideas for improved shopping experiences and stay away from questions of world peace and the GFC.

Cheers, Tim

KerrieAnne Christian said...

Thanks Tim

couldn't agree more ... "horses for courses" as they say ... so as an elected Local Government Councillor I saw the benefit of crowdsourcing on the specialist advisory committees and when even the expert consultants didn't have all the key information.

On the other hand, as a techo engineer cum scientist, I have seen problem-solvers hit brick walls when they didn't access key expertise.