Few people recognize the subtle but crucial difference between crowdsourcing and crowdsolving. Crowdsourcing taps the proverbial “wisdom of the crowd” by utilizing resources or information from the general public such as a Kickstarter campaign to fund a struggling band’s new record or tour.
But all too often, enterprise crowdsourcing degenerates into useless white noise when employees share countless messages over social media platforms without creating any actionable results. Time gets wasted and new ideas get stifled in the online free-for-all.
By contrast, crowdsolving for the enterprise is neither a charity case nor mob rule. It involves a unique type of problem solving by operationalizing the engagement of employees, vendors and customers. This inherent power makes crowdsolving the future direction for initiative success management.
Crowdsolving can help answer the toughest business questions by getting those closest to the problem to voice their concerns, and then enabling their best ideas to bubble up to the top. Mobile software technologies serve as the platform that brings individuals together to create collective solutions to shared problems.
With crowdsolving, leaders solicit feedback from dispersed groups by hosting a focused online discussion. Then the team votes on shared priorities to solve mutual problems across a range of management issues. This ground-up approach results in highly motivated and better-aligned teams, as well as healthier, more engaged organizations.
Like most new technologies, crowdsolving often meets with some resistance when it’s first introduced. That’s why the specific questions and initiatives should come from the top down, while the answers should be generated from the bottom up. The problem at hand must be clearly spelled out first in order to get everyone aligned. Then the group can have at it in coming up with the best solutions.
Many crowdsolving projects initially fail due to a lack of buy-in from the troops, who are focused on their own more immediate problems. Busy workers don’t want be bothered by yet more demands on their precious time. This resistance often requires some creativity on the part of management leadership to convince the team that solving this larger problem will make all of their lives easier.
In one clever example, IT leaders at DirecTV created an animated secret agent video to invite team members to participate in a crowdsolving initiative. The email invitations evoked a kind of spy movie. Those who became active were awarded points and badges in a game based on the video, and iPads were given out as prizes to those whose ideas were voted to the top by the group. DirecTV found that this gamification approach created a sense of fun and camaraderie that produced a stunning 97 percent participation rate within the first few weeks.
Large corporations such as DirecTV are realizing the value of crowdsolving, but small and midsize companies can also benefit as well by solving technical problems that they can’t fix on their own. Because small businesses work so closely with their stakeholders, they have ample openings to collaborate with customers, partners and workers in a kind of crowdsolving feedback loop to improve their products and services.
This crowdsolving strategy will undoubtedly become more widespread as growing numbers of millennials join the workforce. The millennial generation will increasingly demand that their business solutions mirror the consumer Web, including the ubiquitous use of personal smartphones, social media feeds and instant access to information at any time.
Some observers have rightfully described crowdsolving as the democratization of strategy, in which a group of individuals unite to solve tough issues by brainstorming all possible options together before arriving at the best course of action. In this way, crowdsolving is founded on the notion that the collective sum will always be greater than the individual parts in terms of maximizing human cognitive power and experiences.
Brian Anderson is chief marketing officer at POP. He has over 25 years of global marketing experience in technology, business to business, and business to consumer markets. He has a proven track record of success in branding, revenue growth, M&A, IPO, as well as multiple key marketing disciplines.