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Reducing Crowdsourcing Clutter

By Peter Lloyd

Crowdsourcing, like brainstorming, draws criticism for the clamor and debris it attracts. Every creative director, artistic director, lab director, and garage inventor knows that creation and invention can get messy. As a rule, the more creative people involved, the messier. Messy because you have to deal with a lot of nonsense presented as ideas, and messy because the more ideas you rake in, the more you have to sort and evaluate.

With crowdsourcing, you may have to deal also with legal untidiness. The bigger the crowd you source, the greater your chances of someone claiming intellectual rights to something you end up implementing.

Happily, wherever there’s a mess, you’ll also find people who like to sort through it in the interest of finding order, making astute observations, and recommending ways to improve conditions—what grammarians keep trying to do to the anarchy of language.

And so I find Crowdsourcing New Product Ideas under Consumer Learning finely slicing, exposing, and defining the issues that attend crowdsourcing in new-product development. The authors observe, for example, that since everyday outsiders really don’t understand what a company does and can or cannot do, they can’t really come up with practical, on-target product ideas. What I referred to earlier as nonsense presented as ideas.

After analyzing a number of issues that crowdsourcers know well, the paper proposes practical ways to generate better ideas from crowds. But not the problems of separating the wheat from the chaff and dealing with possible IP contamination. You can insulate yourself from both the clutter and the legal hassles by enlisting IdeaConnection Crowdsourcing Solutions to filter incoming ideas and show you only the most relevant.

But the question remains, is crowdsourcing worth the mess and the risk? It is, I think, if you clarify and define your expectations. From large, random, divergent groups, you can expect fresher ideas and ultimately greater odds of ending up with a real breakthrough. To gain that advantage, you have to accept and manage the mess that tags along. You should not expect a widely cast net to gather strangers who can solve your problems.

To solve problems, you need expertly facilitated groups of carefully selected and highly qualified, creative individuals. From them you can expect unprecedented levels of creativity, invention, and innovation.

Peter Lloyd is co-creator with Stephen Grossman of Animal Crackers, the breakthrough problem-solving tool designed to crack your toughest problems.

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