Crowdsourcing for the Rest of Us

Post its

In today’s world, how do small to medium sized businesses leverage cutting-edge tools to improve day-to-day operations? Answer: Borrow the strategies of the big hitters such as  InnoCentive and Proctor & Gamble, then adapt them to meet your needs. One relevant example: crowdsourcing and it’s really just about listening.

Crowdsourcing is all about opening the lines of communication, forging new connections and gaining a new perspective. The concept may sound intimidating — but it is simply about listening respectfully and utilizing the information to move your business forward.  When implemented correctly, it can offer you information that can help business evolve effectively.

Your customers and crowdsourcing
Crowdsourcing can augment your overall customer strategy. The process can not only offer a needed layer of protection when tracking a developing product or service problem, it also has the ability to collect customer ideas for future improvements. Starbucks, Cadbury and Toyota are a few of the companies gathering customer input, with links on their websites to gather ideas and feedback  — a strategy that any business can implement.

Other common social media platforms provide targeted crowdsourcing opportunities. Consider posting a question on your company Facebook Page, include a poll on your blog concerning options for product updates, or post an informational video on Youtube (you’ll get plenty of comments). You can also utilize your Google+ Brand Page to hold a hang out with your customers and explore ideas relevant to your business plan. Whatever the topic you choose to explore, be sure to keep the “call to action” simple and try not to overwhelm your customers in the process.

Get Creative
Organizations of all kinds, are connecting with their customers through crowdsourcing. Sweetgreen’s novel “New Years Resolution” campaign focused on developing a link with customers. By collecting resolutions through post-it notes at their physical store and on Twitter, customer relationships were forged and strengthened. You can utilize crowdsourcing to include your customers in your developing business story, whatever the topic.

Crowdsourcing within your organization
Crowdsourcing is not only about establishing a rapport with your customers, it can also open a new communication channel with your employees. It is possible to crowdsource just about anything within your organization — including ideas to solve inefficiencies within a department or a function. Have budget constraints? Want ideas on how to save money wisely? Pitch the question to your employees, as they are the experts concerning the day-to-day operations of your organization.

Does your organization routinely utilize teams to develop new ideas and solve problems? Social engagement platforms such as Jostle, offer opportunities to implement crowdsourcing within your day-to-day operations, by facilitating new connections and communicating current topics, challenges and opportunities. Essential elements for internal crowdsourcing. The platform provides opportunities to document team formation in response to ever-changing business needs. As explained by Brad Palmer developer of Jostle, “The idea is to connect people by encouraging the discovery of those within the organization. This facilitates cultural knowledge that can positively enhance effectiveness and extended teamwork.” As such, this information allows employees even somewhat removed from the work at hand to serve as a potential contributor or problem solver.

Before you shrug off the notion that crowdsourcing is inappropriate for your business — give the idea just one more thought. Implementing the process could offer you the needed edge to catapult your organization forward.

Check out this crowdsourcing infographic.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist located in East Lansing, Michigan. Contact her practice at can also find her on Twitter and Linkedin.

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