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Hilal English

The Crowdsourcing Practices

March 2024

Crowdsourcing involves gathering diverse opinions online, commonly used by companies for product design via social media to enhance loyalty and accelerate growth. While advantageous for cost savings and speed, challenges include sifting through ideas and ensuring the right crowd engagement.

What is Crowdsourcing? Crowdsourcing is the procedure of aggregating crowd wisdom to solve a problem. It is the practice of turning to a body of people to obtain needed knowledge, information, or opinion through the internet, social media, smartphone applications, and other purpose-built platforms. This approach allows experts to engage with a broader spectrum of sources than they would if they had used, for example, employees, suppliers, and other traditional sources of expertise via conventional means of engagement. 
People involved in crowdsourcing sometimes work as paid freelancers/service providers, while others work voluntarily. Usually, the wisdom of the group is assertive when it is applied to solve some problem innovatively. For example, mobile global positioning system (GPS) traffic applications, e.g., Waze, embolden drivers to self-report accidents and other roadway incidents to provide real-time and updated information to application users. In this way, the traffic application turned people into a community, with engaged users who enhance the value for everyone. When the users see a worth in the crowdsourcing data, they voluntarily participate to draw benefits from mutual information. 
Crowdsourcing also facilitates companies to outsource their work to people elsewhere in the country and around the globe. Consequently, crowdsourcing allows businesses to tap into a vast array of skills, expertise, and other resources without incurring the usual overhead costs of in-house employees, as the workers are not regular employees, receiving full salaries, training, using office space, etc. As an alternative to traditional financing options, crowdsourcing taps into the shared interest of a group, detouring the conventional intermediaries required to raise capital for specific projects.

Crowdsourcing allows businesses to tap into a vast array of skills, expertise, and other resources without incurring the usual overhead costs of in-house employees, as the workers are not regular employees, receiving full salaries, training, using office space, etc. 

To make crowdsourcing work well, businesses need to first break the big project into micro-tasks. For this, the companies use a digital space/platform to put everything together. Generally, when businesses aim to collect customers’ data, they may turn to social media to crowdsource information from users. Crowdsourcing is thus a cheaper way to accomplish the various tasks of a project at a lower cost. 
Main Categories of Crowdsourcing
Crowdsourcing can be broken into the following categories:
The Wisdom of Crowds. It is the idea that large groups of people are collectively smarter than individual experts when it comes to problem-solving or identifying values. Interested readers are referred to James Surowiecki’s (2004) book entitled “The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations.” This book is about the collection of information in groups, resulting in decisions that, the author argues, are often better than could have been made by any single member of the group. The book presents numerous case studies and anecdotes to explain its argument and traces on several fields, primarily economics and psychology.

Crowdsourcing makes tasks and processes quicker, due to the possibility of breaking up the project among a large group of workers, thus accelerating the growth of an enterprise. 

Crowdfunding. It involves raising money for various purposes by soliciting relatively small amounts from a large number of funders. Moreover, individuals or nonprofits seek funds to cover the costs of a recognized endeavor—whether it is a down payment on a house, an artistic project, or something altruistic. Entrepreneurs also seek funds for their businesses through crowdfunding, which involves soliciting money or resources to support individuals, charities, or startups. Contributors to crowdfunding requests may provide funds with no expectation of repayment, or companies may offer shares of the business to contributors.
Medical and Health. The use of crowdsourcing in medical and health research is increasing steadily. Health experts define crowdsourcing as an approach to problem-solving that involves an organization having a large group attempt to solve a problem or a part of a problem, then sharing solutions, where medical research is shifted from a closed environment to an open collaboration between the public and researchers. Crowdsourcing allows large groups of individuals to participate in medical research through innovation challenges, hackathons, and related activities. Practice of this innovative approach provides a valuable community-based method to improve medical services.

The use of crowdsourcing in medical and health research is increasing steadily. Health experts define crowdsourcing as an approach to problem-solving that involves an organization having a large group attempt to solve a problem or a part of a problem, then sharing solutions, where medical research is shifted from a closed environment to an open collaboration between the public and researchers. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Crowdsourcing

▪The advantages of crowdsourcing include cost savings, speed, and the ability to work with people who have skills that an in-house team may not have. If a task takes one employee a week or a month to perform, an enterprise can cut the processing time to a matter of hours or a week by breaking the job into many smaller tasks and giving those tasks to a crowd of workers. So, crowdsourcing makes tasks and processes quicker, due to the possibility of breaking up the project among a large group of workers, thus accelerating the growth of an enterprise.
▪Businesses sometimes use crowdsourcing to assess how several people perform at the same job. For instance, if a company wants a new logo to be developed, it can have dozens of graphic designers assemble samples for a small fee or by organizing a competition awarding prize money. The company can then pick a winner and pay for a more complete logo package. Likewise, companies that need some jobs done only on occasion, such as coding or graphic design, can crowdsource those tasks and avoid the expenses of a full-time in-house employee.
▪Companies seeking to design new products often leverage the crowd for opinions instead of relying on small focus groups. Through social media, they can engage with millions of consumers, ensuring diverse perspectives from various cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. This not only helps companies gather valuable opinions but also fosters consumer engagement and loyalty, as individuals feel connected to the company's projects. Consequently, as consumers participate in problem-solving and information-sharing, they form a lasting connection with the company's products, ultimately contributing to the accelerated growth of businesses.

Crowdsourcing is the collection of information, sentiments, or work from a mass or a group of people, usually obtained via the internet and other purpose-built platforms.

The limitation of crowdsourcing is that one has to sift through all the ideas being pitched, company goals can fall short and the right crowd can be difficult to find or engage. Entities cannot guarantee that the crowd they reach has the expertise, experience, or resources to deliver what they need nor whether they are reaching the best sources to deliver the best possible outcome. Thus, crowdsourcing also has different, if not more, management requirements. Entities that turn to crowdsourcing may need to be more specific about their needs and expectations as well as how they evaluate responses or compensate participation.
Crowdsourcing is the collection of information, sentiments, or work from a mass or a group of people, usually obtained via the internet and other purpose-built platforms. It thus brings together national and global communities around a common project or cause, in an efficient way to find solutions for time-intensive problems, and deeper engagement of communities with their skills and ideas, who build loyalty to the products or solutions. Nevertheless, outcomes can get prejudiced based on the targeted crowdsourced by the company, lack of confidentiality or ownership of an idea/design, and the potential to miss the best ideas or talent, thus falling short of the ultimate goal.

The writer is a PhD graduate from Columbia University, presently holding the position of Principal at the School of Social Sciences and Humanities at the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) in Islamabad.
E-mail: [email protected].