What are the inherent risks of using crowdsourcing

This excellent article from the Customer Collective on Crowdsourcing looks at the potential benefits – and risks of tapping the wisdom of the masses. Crowdsourcing is the act of organizing large groups of people outside an organization to collaborate on tasks that might otherwise be done within it. As a concept it holds tremendous potential – but it can also be dangerous.

The article highlights some of the potential pitfalls including significantly, the possibility of crowds being influenced by influential yet highly organised minorities. In particular if considering using crowdsourcing it recommends:

  • Consider every possible outcome and ensure the worst-case scenario is one that can be accepted.
  • Although setting the rules so that the organization can make the ultimate decision regardless of the group’s wishes, consider that going against the wishes of the group could risk making the situation worse and generate bad PR for your brand. Consider the worst-case scenario in order to determine if the control retained by the organization is real or imagined. Recognize the danger inherent in publicly nullifying the will of the group after having asked that group for their time, consideration, and opinion.
  • In many cases, open-ended tasks may furnish an opportunity for a passionate minority to overwhelm the majority. It may be better and safer to allow participants to choose from a set selection of options or to otherwise constrain the thinking and activity. (Consider the pickle NASA are now in).
  • Put limits in place that prevent or reduce ballot stuffing. While it may be difficult to obstruct all manipulation of a crowdsourced program, many sensitive situations can be avoided by setting appropriate rules and implementing technical restrictions such as requiring registration and limiting participation based on email address and/or IP address.

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