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Advocating Crowdsourcing – Accenture and Deloitte join the drive

Crowdassets are becoming the key source of competitive advantage. We have said this for a long time now and it seems some of the bigger consultancies are catching on – at last. But do they really get it?

We have endeavoured to share the breadth and diversity of opportunity available in the crowdasset model and assist organisations to move to a more crowd enabled strategy. For example our Presentation “Social Media at Work” at the Think Digital event, back in 2012, offered a quick fire introduction to it. But it’s not been an easy path. These ideas have often been considered unconventional at best and positively crazy at worst.

But founded in the thinking of people like Yochai Benkler’s Wealth of Networks, Henry Chesbrough’s Open Innovation and the Erik Von Hippel’s work on Sources of Innovation these “Open For Business” models are now being shown to be both academically, practically, socially, technically and, increasingly, commercially valid.

We have progressively developed the crowdasset model and the techniques associated with helping organisations to identify where these opportunities exist and how they can work to tap into them and integrate them strategically. The robustness of our models have allowed us to place all the emerging trends into the horizon of the crowdasset model. So crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, collaborative economy, prediction markets, viral communication, open sourcing, open innovation and many other potential crowdempowered approaches for commercial and civic application.

Recently we have seen Accenture and Deloitte, in their respective 2014 Technology Trends publications, highlighted crowdsourcing as a major emerging trend and point to some good examples of how firms like GE, BMW and Mastercard are entering this sector.

This is good to see and we welcome their adoption and championing of the vision and recommend a read of both of the reports.

But it’s worth looking a little deeper to see if they truly do “get it”.

The reports are, perhaps understandably, approaching these opportunities from a technology led stand point. This after all is the stock in trade of both firms and the thread for the reports. But in crowd driven approaches it is a mistake to focus on the technology. Technology is merely the enabler, the value and the asset itself is based in the crowd and it is from the perspective of where the value lies that any strategic approach to utilising it must be approached. Of course it is necessary to have a technical understanding but many, indeed most, firms will have sufficient technical infrastructure in place to profit from the crowdasset economy, but what they might lack is the knowledge of how to unlock that, the mindset to consider it, or the culture to embrace it, and this is where we come in to help.

We would assert that the solution is much more behavioural and culturally led and, if there is a need for additional technology, and there probably isn’t, this will follow after the strategic approach has been established.

One of the features of the crowdasset framework we use to help both explain and explore the crowd empowered business opportunity is an expression of the degree to which the power relationships change as an organisation becomes “open for business”, and how much trust is a key feature. To operate effectively in a trust based environment behaviours and approaches that might challenge many strongly held management assumptions and principles need to be adopted.

So in reviewing the two reports from these major consultancies it’s a little troubling to find Paul Daugherty – Chief Technology Officer at Accenture – using such un-reconstructed and un-open language to describe the crowd as a “work force” as opposed to partners and collaborators, and seems to focus on the value of using this asset being primarily in the notion that the crowd might “do it for free”. This is not the primary value of the vast majority of crowd based transactions. In most crowdsourcing it is the unique, novel and wide insight and expertise that is the value to be found in the crowd and not that you might get it “for free”.

We also read that to Accenture “Channeling these efforts to drive business goals is a challenge”. We would say that in many crowd based circumstances you don’t “channel”. You might nudge, nurture, influence and encourage but channeling sounds far too direct and controlling to work well in the crowd.

The use of such language and to not grasp the real asset value is to suggest that perhaps the level of sophistication in how to develop a sustainable strategic advantage from taping into crowd assets is not quite there yet in Accenture.

For Deloitte there are some more positive indications. For them the application of crowdsourcing may not be intuitive” – this is most certainly the case.

They recognize some of the cultural challenges in adopting crowd based approaches suggesting that  “Incentive structures, performance management, operating models, and delivery models may, in some cases, need to be redrawn” and they see it is apart of a broader shift in the way the business is run by suggesting that we should “ use crowdsourcing as a tangible example of the shift to social  business.” This is entirely correct and to properly create value from the crowd and to truly create value from its disruptive power requires significant readjustment and a more holistic and encompassing approach.

They show understanding of how this can be challenging for all involved by asserting that “Employees may feel threatened by crowdsourcing” – quite so, and it is important to manage that process effectively to reduce resistance to the activity.

Some of the practical changes are also acknowledged  “Leaders should foster a culture where appropriate crowd experiments are encouraged while minimizing security, privacy, and compliance risks.” Indeed so, a process we would refer to as adopting “safe fail” as opposed to “fail safe” projects.

In a clarion call they evangelise the new initiative with the words “Leading companies are blasting through corporate walls with industrialized solutions to reach broader crowds capable of generating answers and executing tasks faster and more cost effectively than employees.” All encouraging and correct albeit with still a narrow focus on cost advantage and couched in a bit of hyperbole laden corporate speak.

They round off with “The crowd is waiting and willing. How will you put it to work?” a sentiment we would wholeheartedly endorse, and have done for some years.

So all in all of the two I am more minded to the Deloitte offering but as you might expect I would suggest twintangibles have a better handle on it than either of them!


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