Throughout history we’ve believed that producing a solution to a problem based on a crowd had much to do with proximity. The need for people to physically be present with one another was necessary to collaborate on a unique project.  Suddenly, the Internet created the platform for a virtual crowd that allowed people to get together through shared interests and goals. Strength is definitely in numbers. By unifying a group of people with shared passion, whether they’re professionals, volunteers or high school students, the power of crowdsourcing is becoming the optimal way for businesses to tap into a more global world of ideas.

Though you may not know that you’re seeing this happen today, think of your local news network. Prior to this age of sharing content as it happens, networks would rely solely on journalists or reporters to broadcast their findings as it happens. Traffic reporters and weather forecasters are now reaching out to the public to report what is happening around them so that they can broadcast those events sooner than they otherwise could hope to cover. While the terms crowdsource, opensource and outsource all sound similar, they are fundamental differences in how they approach the same project.

Outsource: Usually performed by and employee or contractor, they seek help from a specific source of people.

Open Source: Members of the public initiate and produce solutions to problems, working as a cooperative group that is most often voluntary.

Crowdsourcing: the process of outsourcing tasks to an undefined large group of people or community through an open call.

As technology progresses, we see major transitions from the limited way in which we interacted with each other. The evolution from call centers to email is one way that the path to interacting with each other has been simplified. Groups who desire to seek a compelling idea from a crowd of others now can utilize a global resource with mobile devices and websites who act as vehicles of interaction.  This interaction creates the ability to be able to exchange information within large diverse group.

Instant Benefits of Crowdsourcing

-  Problems can be explored and solutions found very quickly and with little cost
-  Engaging a global workforce by being able to establish a secure online payment transfer method—PayPal the most notorious.
-  The organization or client can seek a wider range of talent that may not be present in his/her current organization.
-  Listening to the crowd gives businesses insight on their customers’ desires.
-  The organization and the crowd feel a kinship with each other that is a result of a successful project that provides a sense of ownership through contribution and collaboration.

Here is an excerpt from Jeff Howe, who in May of 2006 wrote an article for Wired Magazine that ignited the term Crowdsourcing:

Crowdsourcing has virtually overnight generated huge buzz, enthusiasm, and fear. It’s the application of the open-source idea to any field outside of software, taking a function performed by people in an organization, such as reporting done by journalist, research and product development by scientists, or design of a T-shirt, for example, and in effect outsourcing it through an open-air broadcast on the Internet. Crowdsourcing has already had a huge impact on large corporations such as Proctor & Gamble.” - Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd is Driving the Future of Business by Jeff Howe

Crowdsourcing is as much as an advantage for a business as it is for someone who wants stand out in crowd. Let’s say a freelance web designer is constantly being overlooked for jobs because giant corporations are getting them first.  He needs a way of getting noticed so he decides to rev up his competitive edge. He compiles a community of freelance designers, creates a web platform for them to use and markets his crowd.  The crowd provides solutions quicker, are more diverse and significantly cheaper than those giant corporations. Therefore, they’re able to keep their new clients happy. The fact that people can self-organize themselves into online productive communities, without the need for a manager or supervisor, is the hidden beauty of Crowdsourcing.

The act of taking a job that traditionally was performed by an employee and producing and open-call to an undefined group is being noticed worldwide. With the Internet, the customer can turn professional and even have the chance to contribute to a mass project. Having insight to needs and desires of the customer puts businesses one-step ahead in their marketing objectives. The output of crowdsourcing is expertise-based, knowledge-based or process-based. Creating a sense of ownership within the crowd can only help to steadily produce a determined community. A community that works diligently towards a unified goal that will be able to reap the rewards of each accomplishment.