Collaborative Enterprise Models: Crowdsourcing

This is one of a 12-part series exploring Cooperation and Collaborative Business Model.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” – African Proverb



Are you looking for a way to work with others?

As part of a 12-part series on Professional Collaboration, we are going to look at 6 types of collaborative enterprise models over the next 6 articles. The topic of this article is Crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing might seem like an odd contribution to the Collaborative Enterprise Model because it is not something many people, who are experienced with different business models,  would consider when they are looking at collaborative strategies. There is a significant difference between Crowdsourcing and other models. The partners of all other models are specifically chosen to participate; whereas, Crowdsourcing is all about the quantity of the people involved and is much less interested in the quality of each individual. That being said, there is real value in looking at Crowdsourcing as an option for a Collaborative Enterprise Model. Crowdsourcing is about gathering a large and diverse group and accessing their vast knowledge base. This may include utilizing their creative opinions or tasking them with a single goal to complete.

The main focus of Crowdsourcing is to assess the collective intelligence of the crowd.

How does Crowdsourcing work?

There are two main models of Crowdsourcing that are commonly used. Although there are a few others models in this evolving approach, we will be discussing the main two models in this article.

Crowdsourcing Model 1: Crowdcreating (or Development)

Crowdcreating is about collaborative efforts to develop something of value and purpose. This is accomplished by an organization giving the crowd a medium or platform (often through an online technology) to allow the crowd to build something that would have been incredibly difficult or even impossible for the organization to accomplish by themselves. This approach is mostly thought of as an exclusively online process, however, this method has existed long before the internet. In the past, publishing companies would have contests for encouraging the general public to mail in their favourite recipes so the company could turn around and publish them in a cook book. Magazines, like Readers Digest, would put out a call for stories or jokes so readers would submit ideas or content for their monthly columns. This is a very old approach to collaboration, where your target audience or customer base is engaged and becomes part of the enterprise. Not only is this effective customer engagement, it is a tried and tested way to access collective intelligence of the crowd.

The internet didn’t invent Crowdcreating, but it certainly refined it. A more modern and online example of this model is Wikipedia. Online encyclopedias are incredibility expensive and time consuming for a company to create. They need to be constantly updated and added to. For a single company to do this internally, it would take a huge team and become too costly for the average person to use. But through Crowdcreating, Wikipedia is able to access the collective intelligence of the crowd and make everyone a contributor and just hire a small team of editors to mange the content. They can run this entire business through a yearly fundraiser and provide a free and (mostly) accurate product.

To pull off this type of Crowdsourcing model, the company needs to effectively engage and motivate the crowd to develop the content. As with any crowdsourcing, it needs a rigorous editing and content management process to ensure quality and accuracy. It is also vital to have a platform for the crowd to use to make their contributions and to fuel each others’ ideas. This also has to be effectively managed.

Crowdsourcing Model 2: Crowdsolving (or Assessment)

Crowdsolving is about the collaborative effort to refine an existing product or to engage in diverse thinking to solve a complex problem. Whereas Crowdcreating is about building up or developing something new, Crowdsolving is about improving or refining something this is existing. The collective intelligence advantage to Crowdsolving is that it can explore every idea from terrible to inspired just because of the capacity to explore every single option. Crowdsolving is what makes the Infinite Monkey Theorem theoretically possible. According to Wikipedia, this theorem is described as “a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type any given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare.”

Crowdsolving has been used in many different ways both on and offline, from people being on the look out when an Amber Alert sounds, the local news sharing pictures of suspects wanted for questioning, to people posting lost cat pictures on Facebook. These are ways it can help discover and find people and pets. Companies having online polls to vote on products, or people signing petitions on are other uses of Crowdsolving to gain consensus or build political pressure.

Crowdsolving can even be used to help industries solve complex problems, such as helping farms identify weeds and dangerous plants, and helping health researchers process seemingly endless amounts of data to look for patterns and correlate results. One of the most successful examples of Crowdsolving is Beta Testing for video games and software. Companies will have open beta tests where the public gets access to the unpolished version of the game or software. This gives the users a chance to test and provide feedback on the product and the company gets to stress test and refine the product and give their potential customer base a “test drive” to get them interested in buying the finished product later.

To pull off this type of Crowdsourcing, the company looking to access the collective intelligence of the crowd needs to make sure that the crowd has access to everything they need to process the content. In the current climate for Crowdsolving, via online, the platform for accessing the data needs to be very well made, allow for effective communications and collaborations within the community using it while inspiring your crowd with a desirable purpose.

The Takeaway

Collective Intelligence of the crowd is a powerful tool that has become more accessible because of the internet. Engaging with your customer base, community, residents, or the broader public can have major benefits, but you need to know how to connect with them. The crowd is not looking to make you money, they want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and they are willing to give you free work in order to do that. There needs to be trust, recognition and effective communications to get the crowd to support you. As helpful as the crowd can be when they are on your side, they can be equally harmful if they turn against you.

To learn more about Crowdsourcing contact our team at


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