A featured article by Elizabeth Sullivan in the February 28 issue of Marketing Newsreports on a trend among some companies to incorporate crowdsourcing into their innovation processes.  The basic idea behind “crowdsourcing-led innovation” is that a large and diverse pool of people is both more efficient and effective at solving problems or generating ideas than any single individual or a small group.

Crowdsourcing has its origins in open source software platforms that allow communities of programmers to develop applications, but the idea took on new meaning with “Web 2.0” and the growth of user-generated Internet content. The concept got another big boost from the publication of The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowieki.  Surowieki surveyed a lot of research to make his argument that sometimes crowds do a better job of solving problems than even the most gifted individuals.  And crowdsourcing seems to have found its way into brand positioning.  Microsoft has been airing a series of ads–most prominently during the Olympics–in which “ordinary” PC users claim credit for Windows 7 because of suggestions they made to Microsoft.

Because innovation is both important to most firms’ success and hard to do, it’s not surprising that any new approach that might improve the process would get a lot of attention.  Whether crowdsourcing will work for your business most likely will depend on the way you approach both crowdsourcing and innovation. (more…)