Crowds vs. Innovation ...

As I mentioned in my last entry, I am attending the NAFEM Annual Meeting and Management Workshop in Somona, California this weekend. Saturday morning's first session was outstanding. The speaker was Peter Sheahan. Peter is a dynamic, passionate speaker with insight beyond his years. He was captivating, and motivating. I walked away with many notes and a head full of ideas.  The difficulty in attending this type of presentation, where the speaker is so captivating, is that I cannot capture everything.  Peter was so ineteresting that I could not pick up my pen.

I want to comment on one line that he used during his presenation. I am going to read his book latest book, "Fl!P. How to Turn Everything You Know on its Head - and Succeed Beyond Your Wildest Imaginings". I'll reserve further comment until I finish the book.

Speaking of innovation in business, Peter said that, "Crowds don't innovate. Someone has to lead the crowd." Think about that ... I'll get back to in in a minute ...

The word "crowdsourcing" was coined by Jeff Howe in a 2006 article in Wired Magazine. He followed that with his book, "Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business".  If you have not read the book, you may want to read a summary by Peter Korchnak. An excerpt from his comments:

According to the crowdsourced Wikipedia, crowdsourcing is the “act of taking tasks traditionally performed by an employee or contractor and outsourcing [them] to a group of people or community”.

Thanks to the Internet, crowdsourcing democratizes knowledge by flattening the hierarchy of the expertise-based economy: everyone has expertise that businesses can tap into. Crowdsourcing allows companies to harness the collective intelligence of large numbers of diverse individuals making autonomous decisions in online communities self-organized into workforces.

In short, crowdsourcing is a perfect expression of the Japanese proverb, “None of us is as smart as all of us”.

The books gives a few good examples of crowdsourcing. My purpose here is not to recite or summarize the book. Buy the book and read it.

Back to Peter's comments about crowds and innovation. I tend to agree with him. I have seen many time when the crowd was not capable of understanding or even conceiving the innovation. They could not see outside the  box of current thinking. I believe crowds still have a place. I think they can be used effectively but you have to understand that pleasing the crowd may block an opportunity for true, groundbreaking innovation. 

By the way, another book, which I have not read, is "The Wisdom of Crowds" by James Surowiecki. I read a summery of his book where I found what he suggest are the four 'key qualities that make a crowd smart' (this is a quote from the review):

- It needs to be diverse, so that people are bringing different pieces of information to the table.
- It needs to be decentralized, so that no one at the top is dictating the crowd's answer.
- It needs a way of summarizing people's opinions into one collective verdict.
- And the people in the crowd need to be independent, so that they pay attention mostly to their own information, and not worrying about what everyone around them thinks.

I am not sure how to rationalize these comments. I will withhold comment until I can read this book.

What do you think about crowdsouring? Comments welcome!