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Crowd Innovation

| On 13, Dec 2007

James Todhunter

“Avoid the crowd.  Do your own thinking independently.  Be the chess player, not the chess piece.”
— Ralph Charell


Crowdsourcing seems to be a popular topic these days.  But, I can’t help thinking that its popularity will be short lived.  There doesn’t seem to be any credible evidence to support this practice as being particularly productive.


Certainly no one can expect that the random crowd will demonstrate great insight and wisdom in helping to solve a problem.  There are innumerable examples that show exactly the opposite to be true.  Two well know examples of this are the 1630’s Dutch tulip frenzy and the witch-mania that was common throughout the Renaissance and Reformation periods.  History teaches us that the wisdom of the crown is a fiction and that the intelligence of the mob regresses to the mean.


While one can not rule out the possibility that a truly great concept may emerge from a lone voice within the crowd, this method of searching for great innovations can not be called efficient or repeatable.  The crowd does not know or feel your pain; they know not what your goals are or what you value.  This method is well likened to the search for the needle in the haystack–the larger the crowd, the larger and messier the haystack.


Some people suggest that crowdsourcing is a natural extension of team collaboration.  But this is not so.  The dynamics of the crowd are not related to those of the team.  More of the same is not the same.


The best achievements in sustainable innovation are seen in those organizations that understand that the quest for innovation can not be divorced from internal expertise.  This is not to say that external knowledge and contribution is not of value.  In fact, the integration of external concept sources is vital to breaking free of natural inertial forces that develop within organizations.  But this integration must be done in a rational manner guided by the in depth understanding of the enterprises capabilities, objectives, and the needs of the client.


What do you think about crowdsourcing?


[Crossposted from www.InnovatingToWin.com]