Crowding together: how can crowd resources help your business?

In business we are frequently told that success depends upon us standing out from the crowd. Whether you are selling a product or a service, you have to prove yourself to be better than all the rest. There are times, however, when the crowd can be your best friend. Two sessions at the recent Business EDUCA 2012 gave practical examples of how moving within the crowd can help you to achieve success. The news team tagged along to find out more.


By Alicia Mitchell


Charles Jennings, a strategic consultant who aims to help organisations to ‘work smarter’, invited delegates to take part in a highly interactive afternoon of solution seeking through crowdsourcing. Sharing a model that aims to draw upon the expertise and experience of every participant, Jennings explained that, within any organisation, valuable knowledge can often lie dormant.


When communication channels are only vertical, he says, it is possible for specific issues or successes to go unnoticed, even in a single department. Jennings’s crowdsourcing method can open up dialogue between colleagues who may have the answers to each other’s questions. The method is highly flexible, and discussion points can be either general to the health of an organisation or specific to pertinent trouble points within a team.


Example topics chosen for discussion in the interactive session included push and pull learning models and inspiring examples of good practice witnessed or implemented by attendees. Participants worked in groups to gather information on their assigned topic and finished by presenting their findings. Jennings’s method results in every participant sharing their views on every discussion topic; everybody’s voice is heard.


Dr. Patrick Blum, Managing Partner of the Inside Business Group and attendee to the session, described the concept as one that he would definitely be implementing into his business. Blum’s task had been to gather examples of best practice, and he was inspired by the responses he found, including the Scottish Social Services’ ‘ideas platform’ and a Swedish learning project that connected students across the globe to work on communal learning activities. “All four topics were interesting”, he said, “but especially the projects our group uncovered”.


Crowdsourcing can also generate new working relationships. When asked if he would be keeping in touch with any of his fellow crowdsourcers, Blum’s answer was direct: “Yes, definitely! I have swapped business cards. It is a fun opportunity to meet other people.”


But it is not only on the micro-scale that crowds can be useful. In her Learnshop, Kirsten Winkler shared practical tips for entrepreneurs hoping to extract capital from the global crowd by using crowdfunding, or a “pooling of funds from people who are passionate about the same idea”.


Winkler writes her own widely followed blog on educational technology trends and is the founder of EDUKWEST, an on-line channel broadcasting interviews with start-ups and ‘teacherpreneurs’. EDUKWEST is also an official partner to Indiegogo, one of the leader crowdfunding platforms.


Although it can be a useful and low cost way to generate investment, there are plenty of other benefits to be found in the crowd. Platforms are able to provide extensive data on your potential customer base and campaigns can offer pre-launch marketing to build hype about your product and potential PR coverage. Crowdfunding campaigns can also provide useful feedback on how viable your idea really is: if the crowd has not stumped up $10 after two weeks, you might want to head back to the drawing board.


So how can you be sure of successfully channelling funding and support from the crowd? Kirsten points to video and social media, which is now a necessity to a successful campaign. A well-produced video that shares the personal story behind your project can increase funding by 114%, whilst four active social media accounts can push it up by 103%.


But, Winkler warns, do not let things slide. Just as social media can launch a campaign into viral stardom, unattended or impersonal accounts can draw vitriol from the crowd, casting your dream onto the scrapheap.


Whether you are seeking solutions within your workplace or seeking financial backing for your entrepreneurial ideas, turning to the crowd can offer useful support. What is more, these methods require minimal to no initial investment and have the potential to draw rich rewards.


If you are thinking about how the crowd can help you, take a moment to consider Winkler’s final and favourite benefit of crowd resources: serendipity. If you never have a go, never seek help or share your ideas, you will never know what you have missed.

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