Diversity and Success

Over the holiday, I read Jeff Howe’s Crowdsoucring and found some of the examples fascinating. If you’re looking for a spare book, I’d highly recommend it.

What is crowdsourcing? Wikipedia defines it as:

“Crowdsourcing is a neologism for the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people, in the form of an open call.”

Essentially it’s the ability to take a complex task (or a simple one in some cases) and allow a large group of people (a network) the chance to solve it together. Examples such as the operating system LINUX or the popular – and sweet – T-Shirt site Threadless are two very common ways that individuals and companies can use crowdsourcing.

One of my favorite parts of the book is the argument that a diverse group of people can always out-solve a group of experts in a given subject. Howe quotes from the novel “The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies” by Cal tech professor Scott E. Page:

“[A] randomly selected collection of problem solvers outperforms a collection of the best individual problem solvers.”

Howe continues: “At the heart of Page’s theorem is the observation that people of high ability are a homogeneous group. Many of them have been trained in the same institutions, and they tend to possess similar perspectives and apply similar problem-solving techniques. They are indeed better than the crowd at large, but at fewer things.”

As someone who went to school for a general arts degree, I’ve been a proponent of this theory for a long time. In my experience (albeit minimal), the best teams are the ones filled with people from different backgrounds, perspectives and have a plethora of experiences. The teams with the same types (all Commerce backgrounds, all engineers, all arts students, etc) tend to start off strong, but can falter when they agree to a potential solution too quickly.

Howe goes on to prove this point more fully in the novel so I won’t get too deep. That being said, the applications for crowdsourcing are increasing dramatically and agencies and our clients need to be prepared to use these strategies to improve their products, brands and customer satisfaction scores.

2 Responses to “Diversity and Success”
  1. James says:

    And when agencies and their clients are ready to start to use crowdsourcing strategies to improve, we’ll be ready to make it a reality and to provide guidance to make it successful.

  2. For sure. I do wonder how long it will take agencies to realize the power of the crowd. Because we work in the idea business, I think that most agencies are secretive about sharing anything (briefs, creative development process, etc)In order for crowdsourcing to work, you have to be a bit more open with your objectives and I think it will take time – especially for older traditional shops – to make that move.

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