Posting in Government
Have new developments in Big Data, social media, and boosting machine-augmented human intelligence already made crowdsourcing obsolete?
Crowdsourcing -- or capitalizing on "the wisdom of the crowd" -- has been seen as a 21st-century way to draw innovation from beyond the four walls of the enterprise for new ideas, as well as gain insights from a cross-pollination of disciplines. Leading organizations such as NASA and Dell have been employing crowdsourcing approaches to successfully spark new innovations.
But while technology brought crowdsourcing to a whole new level, it is also already rendering the approach passe, and potentially risky. That's the observation made by Thomas Frey, senior futurist with the DaVinci Institute and publisher of FuturistSpeaker.com. He asks this provocative question: "If you had a choice of flying from Boston to San Diego in a plane piloted by a single machine or the combined intelligence of 3,000 people, which would you choose?"
Frey points out that the "crowd" often has been wrong, from a historical perspective. For example, he points out, following the wisdom of the crowd led to the 1929 stock market crash; or to the real estate market crash of the 2000s.
Frey stats that crowdsourcing is losing its luster as a means of decision making and innovation, and is being superseded by three technology-enabled developments:
The rise of "super-influencers;" Super-influencers are active voices within their social networks, and marketers are learning to get these super-influencers "to endorse their products and services in a more positive fashion," Frey observes.
The rise of Big Data analytics: Big Data is accelerating decision-making from slower, more deterministic approaches (such as committees or boards) to "data mining techniques that can access the opinions of large constituencies or the buying whims of a target market almost instantly," Frey says. "Yesterday’s tail-draggingly slow processes are being replaced with an entirely new social norm."
The rise of machine-augmented human intelligence: Perhaps paradoxically, technology and artificial intelligence is helping to lift individual human intelligence as well, Frey points out. "As we move into the big data era, we will continue to uncover far more sophisticated ways of both capturing and leveraging these gems of real human intelligence, and finding unusual ways of using only those with the highest grade of intelligence behind them."
Frey points out that decision-making is being effectively enabled by new technologies, but there may continue to be a valid role for crowdsourcing to boost innovation. Many companies and crowdsource communities, for example, limit engagement to closed networks of participants, for example. Companies experimenting with crowdsourcing, for example, have employed the approach to their employees or partners, thus ensuring more relevant and focused ideas. There are also crowdsourcing engagements limited to scientists or researchers. Crowdsourcing is part of an important set of tools now available, via technology, for achieving faster and more innovative solutions to problems -- if employed properly.
(Photo by Joe McKendrick.)
Aug 8, 2012
Crowdsourcing as a pure democratic process is as doomed to fail as elected government. It'a good way to generate ideas, solutions to specific small problems, and statistics. Then some non-democratic process has to sort out the wheat from the chaff and turn it into something useful. That's called decision making. The idea that the wisdom of the crowd [i]can[/i] be greater than the wisdom of the individual is demonstrably false in many cases. Almost every newspaper carries an astrology column, a multi-billion dollar cosmetics industry caters to wishful thinking, and companies, special interest groups, and politicians spend inordinate amounts of money on "communication" - reshaping, and in many cases rewriting what used to be called common sense. To get a learned opinion about some complex current issue, the crowd turns to the wisdom of movie stars, "newsworthy" delinquent children of the rich and famous, &c. Experts are so, so, so [i][b]boring[/b][/i]! The public education system caters to the least capable, thereby reducing us all to the lowest common denominator. The saving grace of open crowdsourcing is that it relies on the intrinsic interest of the contributor, and the rewards are not attractive enough to the mass to generate huge floods of garbage solutions. Crowdfunding is more like pushing penny stocks, somewhere between mass marketing and massive fraud.
The question is- what benefits from crowd sourcing? What wouldn't? The examples pointed out where crowd sourcing doesn't work basically stems from the fact that the example is a technical one. Technical in a sense that the plane requires a specific set of expertise to built and construct for safety. Technical issues such as this should not be "mass crowd-sourced" as this would bring in ideas from "pseudo experts" who might cause more problems that find more solutions. The only crowd sourcing that could be done with a technical issue would be "selected expert crowd sourcing"- perhaps done through social networks such as LinkedIn where you know you are talking to a group of people with the expertise. For "mass crowd sourcing", it could be used in campaigns for the environment etc. This is where the collective wisdow would generate innovation and ideas ground-up.
No problem with listening to the crowd, but making a decision solely by votes can always lead to total failure. You can see it from time to time in various game shows( ask the audience trump card). Some higher intelligence is needed to work out who to omit or join the crowd. I think dictator's decision of A company's ex-ceo made A become the biggest company in the world.
Many years ago, my Dad suggested that instead of following the crowd, that I should do my own research and then draw my own conclusions. Doesn't win me any popularity contests (and I don't really care), but that advice has served me well. So well, in fact, that I've suggested the same concept to my children who, in turn, have also benefited. Crowds, it seems, are great for those who just can't be bothered to think. Just saying ....
Crowdsourcing new? Maybe the term but needs assessment has been around for a long time and when it becomes obsolete we are all in trouble. Is there a think tank someplace that comes up with these buzz words and catch phrases? It wasn't the " wisdom" of the crowd that caused the stock market crash or the the dot com bomb or the latest real estate crisis it was greed. Living beyond your means, Stocks bought on margin, sub prime lending - we don't seem to learn. Maybe instead of buy in buzz words and catch phrases we should take a look at our history and see if there's a way to avoid repeating it.
Crowd sourcing as a decision making tool - at least informed decision making, has never made any logical sense. Before the generally uninformed/non-critical thinking public and the scientifically illiterate media stupidly and enthusiastically embraced "crowd sourcing" for decision making - we were already using - "Super Influencers (people with demonstrated expertise), 'Big Data' (statistics) and "Machine Augmented Intelligence" (computers). Leave it to the media to rediscover the obvious, invent different terms to state it in, and then claim it as their own.
One problem with crowdsourcing innovation is that every form of poll - and crowdsourcing just means voting with your dollar - tends to be conservative. i have personally seen hundreds of times where this effect was visible in product development where focus groups were involved. Now if people vote with their dollars they tend to be even more conservative, because it's their money at stake now... I think crowdfunding would be great for managing a money fund. People get to choose how their 401k's money gets managed. That would make it very transparent and trustworthy.