Crowdsourcing: A Pandemonium for Disruptive Innovation

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The first industrial revolution began with the mechanisation of tasks accomplished previously by hand. The second one was started by mass production and resulting consumer economy. Now a third industrial revolution seems to herald a new age in which consumers do not only consume, but also produce products and services

The first industrial revolution began with the mechanisation of tasks
accomplished previously by hand. The second one was started by mass
production and resulting consumer economy. Now a third industrial revolution
seems to herald a new age in which consumers do not only consume, but
also produce products and services tailored to their individual requirements.
This is facilitated mainly through people’s access to open digital networks, in
which everyone can express their wishes. Crowdsourcing is such a digital tool
that allows the expression of personal demands and online collaboration to
reach a common purpose. Manuel de Landa’s philosophical thoughts have
predicted that such open networks will cause disruptive paradigm shifts. This
led to the formulation of the following question:

 

How disruptive are the creative results from the deployment of crowdsourcing tools?

 

Extensive research has uncovered that the results are not that innovative, let alone disruptive. The possible reasons for this are manifold. The main cause could lie in the sponsors of crowdsourcing initiatives. On one hand they do not follow this type of purpose. It is mainly utilised to create promotional campaigns and new product or service development with incremental character. On the other hand innovative outputs are rejected due to its misalignment with the prevailing order of things.

 

Another possible reason is the programmatic way in which crowdsourcing initiatives form a small component of a a linear, milestone-based change process. It is used only as a tool for sourcing ideas. No information has indicated that the crowdsourcing tool is being used for exploration of a problem, gaining insights into human behaviour, or experimentation with conceptual prototypes. Initiatives are usually one-off events. Sponsors don’t seem to engage more than once to launch reiterative challenges in order to allow for a concept to develop.

 

Furthermore, research has shown that the tools need to be adjusted in order to render more innovative results. The necessary diversity of the crowd contributing ideas is rather low and the tools do not have mechanisms that ensure a higher degree of diversity. In addition the tools do not motivate the participants to initiate and maintain a fruitful creative interaction. This is made evident through the possibility to give final judgments early in the interactive process and the lack of mechanisms that allow concurrent and private work streams.

 

Single outputs, however, have proved that crowdsourcing has a high disruptive potential. In order to profit from this potential three things need to change: Firstly, sponsoring organisations will need to change their attitude and become more experimental and ready to embrace risk and failure; second, the tools will need to reach a higher degree of sophistication, and thirdly the crowdsourcing tool needs to be deployed including design processes.

 

Last but not least the research has also uncovered that the crowdsourcing in general is a disruptive tool in itself because it can and does actually replace already many functions performed by established organisations. A combination of these could lead to a fully crowdsourced enterprise.