In this sharp book, Wired journalist Jeff Howe shows how companies are using the internet to “crowdsource” new ideas from people beyond their own staff. Howe defines “crowdsourcing” as an “immense talent-finding mechanism”, a new outlook that presumes anyone can be creative, the antithesis of last century’s assembly-line mentality.
Proctor and Gamble, for example, posts research problems on the InnoCentive website, which runs them past a global network of 140,000 scientists who take on challenges mostly for the fun of solving them. Howe is excited by the way “crowdsourcing” transforms conventional business thinking – InnoCentive’s shadow workforce is motivated more by pleasure than pay.
“Crowdsourcing” has produced entirely new businesses. iStockphoto’s products – stock photos – are created by 50,000 devoted part-time photographers, fewer than 10 per cent of whom make a living from it. Howe recognises that “crowdsourcing” can cause huge economic dislocation. But ultimately, he believes it “paints a flattering portrait of the human race” because it fosters collaboration and shows that profitable work can be inspired by more than money.