What changed in crowdsourcing in the last decade?

What changed in crowdsourcing in the last decade? And what is its future?

Perspectives from problem solvers.

When it comes to crowdsourcing, the piece of information provided by the crowd is totally missing. For this main reason, multiple winning awarded problem solvers decided to speak also their words during We Are Solvers project.

As we all know by now, the crowdsourcing venue has two main players: the ones with the problems/challenges (seekers) and the ones with the solutions (solvers/crowd). During incentive based challenges, the winning solutions are rewarded with monetary prizes and sometimes with exposure to target audiences in various events. Seldom, the winning solver is engaged in the further process, which is a lost opportunity for both sides in my view.

Being myself a multiple awarded problem solver on the road of innovating through crowdsourcing (open innovation) with 5 winning solutions in my books and over 30 solutions overall, I think I can have a word or two about it.

In 7 years since I play the game of crowdsourcing, nothing really changed in terms of impact and approach of OI platforms and seekers. It is a feeling shared also by my peers, I could see that during our virtual encounters in We Are Solvers project and in our many discussions over the years.

Their lives did not change after winning challenge after challenge, the world did not change, the seekers (leadership/decision makers’ mindset) did not change, the level of awards did not change (on the contrary, they become lower).

In most of the occasions we do not know who the seekers are, we cannot use the anonymous achievement in our CV as brandless as they are, they mean nothing to a recruiter/new client and we also do not know if they ever implemented our awarded solutions. In 99% of the cases, seekers don’t engage the solvers they award in the further process, under any form (part-time, remote, etc).

We usually remain anonymous to each other.

I would like to believe that our paid innovations really made a difference, but the truth is we don’t have a clue because in very rare occasions we are provided feedback or follow-up. That’s a huge turn off. We are in the dark on this one.

Then, very few employers / decision makers understand the value of our awarded solutions and all the research, skills and work behind them, or what crowdsourcing really is. When I tell someone about this world, they are fascinated and some even dare to ask me: how do you survive in a science fiction story? My answer seldom is coherent on this one.

What changed in this process is our inner worlds, I believe. Our mindsets as performers. We changed. Solvers. Or at least, we became more resilient, more collaborative and more competitive than ever before. At least, that is my case. I have changed substantially on this path.

As I am a generalist, the challenges I can solve through crowdsourcing are very few. For this reason the competition is always at its picks. With each new challenge I take, I have to rise above the crowd. It’s a competition with myself in the core. This is how I approach it. Otherwise, I couldn’t find motivation in giving away my best for the hope of payment. It’s the kind of lotery where you have to be smart enough to be lucky. Where you create your luck.

The crowdsourcing market is highly dominated by Pharma and big industries, areas where scientists have more opportunities as problem solvers and areas where R&D makes savings in terms of money and time. Practically, in the scientific area, in many occasions the time spent with “trial and error” is eliminated. Even though it is a good venue also for smaller businesses, it might still be too futuristic for that sector.

Crowdsourcing is almost absent in areas like public policies, leadership, management, business operations, NGOs and social innovation – areas where it is most needed, if we think about it.

This another thing that haven’t changed.

When they do happen, the challenges do not offer a prize – they ask free participation, so the engagement and the outcomes are often modest. As we can all see if we just have a look around us.

Innovation is an overrated notion since the crisis hit in 2007/2008, as the most stringent problems of our world are not smaller as they were supposed to be, but on the contrary. The innovation is still focused on making more profits by getting rid of more and more people and less on solving the existing problems like poverty, housing, unemployment, clean water, polution, food deserts, etc. If I look at how private and public funds are spent, at the huge wave of business start-ups (and the huge rate of failure in the small and new business area) and at what kind of challenges are launched out there on the market, this is what I see.

I don’t think crowdsourcing approach is different in any way today than it was 7-10 years ago when it became more visible on the web.

We can connect more dots now than ever. And much faster. Still, we don’t do it in the areas where is more need it. In 10 years since crowdsourcing became a word on the web, we should have done consistent progress in solving real societal problems. Did we? And who or what is measuring its impact?

Imagine what will happen and how fast if we use all this progress more also for solving societal challenges, to help people solve their daily challenges in real time, for creating new jobs, new markets, new ways of living life.

Imagine teams of humans and AI innovating together for solving real life problems. Imagine investors spending more money and interest also on this purpose. To turn things around. We have talents, we have tools. We have crowdsourcing infrastructure.

I believe many solvers are ready for such mission in terms of mindset, knowledge and skills. And I believe much more solvers will unravel from the unknown for such purpose as long as by doing crowdsourcing this way, they can also build a decent and meaningful life around it.

Imagine an organization where all employees are winning/top problem solvers having the mission to solve common good problems on fast forward and in sustainable ways. That’s can be an exotic experiment for an excentric millionaire, but why not? As I see it, we live times when we have to act a little bit unconventional.

Everything we do is supposed to uplift the quality of life and to buy us more time to also enjoy life.

Otherwise, what’s the point? What are we living and working for?

Watch below: Insights from crowdsourcing winning problem solvers about the future of openinnovation

…and what’s the next thing after open innovation?
Insights from (in order of appearance): Jacqueline Eenkooren (Canada), Bas van de Haterd (Netherlands), Abshar Rashid (Dubai), Mario Rosato (Italy), David Galbraith (USA), Georgia Mihalcea (Romania), Steven Webb (USA), Michael Ricciardi (USA)