Crowdsourcing is a resource waiting to be discovered by CW program stakeholders. We refer to it as a diamond in the rough as it lies hidden within the on-demand/human cloud pillar in CW programs’ talent sourcing channels portfolio. The fact is a strategic element of CW program management best practices is the ongoing management of a program’s talent sourcing channel mix, and crowdsourcing brings both speed and innovation to the table.

Crowdsourcing may seem esoteric, but along with proven cost-effectiveness, it has elements that other sourcing channels may not be structured to deliver. While it certainly is a disruptive approach to the norms of matching talent to a required solution skillset, if executed properly, it is a tool that can focus the search for talent down to an understanding of specific intelligence, experience and knowledge requirements that a talent resource will need to solve a problem with a potentially reimagined solution.

Crowdsourcing is defined by SIA as:

An online platform model that enables work assignments to get parsed out and performed (often as disaggregated “microtasks”) by a far-flung “crowd” of independent workers who perform (paid or otherwise compensated/incented) work at will. Typically, the client of a “crowdsourcing” platform is purchasing “an outcome” (as a service output, not a labor relationship). Crowdsourcing also includes work arrangements where a “crowd” of workers compete or bid against one another to solve problems or tasks, with winner(s) selected and compensated based on the merit of their submissions.

There are a lot of possibilities and approaches to consider.

The crowdsourcing element of the on-demand/human cloud resourcing channel can be home to freelancers, independent contractors, retirees and alumni looking for gig work. Because this population is not vetted prior to entry, the resources available are plentiful and diverse in skillsets, experience and knowledge. It may not ever represent a significant portion of your talent-sourcing channel mix, but it may capture 10% to 15% of your strategic, problem-solving solutions that have major impact on the overall competitive performance of the organization.

Advantages. Depending on one’s execution model, crowdsourcing can be very cost-effective for the CW engagement organization and fairly profitable for the resource(s) delivering the solution. One can quickly access a diverse population of skillful thinkers across multiple application domains. This drives out-of-the-box thinking and a reimagining of what the solution to a defined problem could be; hence, unforeseen solutions and hard-to-find talent can emerge.

Disadvantages. The disadvantages of crowdsourcing include managing and sorting through voluminous solution responses to a problem solution request and having limited to no confidentiality to the solution development process. A major cause of a crowdsourcing failure is a poorly defined problem with not enough detail to guide the solution thinking deployed. Sometimes the crowd veers into non-productive directions and/or submitted solutions may be of poor quality and even include stolen IP.

Mindset shift. A key suggestion from change management experts is to train engagement managers to start owning the problem instead of the solution. It is the difference between being innovation managers and a solution owners. Solution owners build protectionist walls that stop new thinking and innovation on how to solve tough problems. But innovation managers — problem owners — have an in-depth, detailed understanding of the problem that creates an openness to reimagining what the best solution could be.

A proven solution in one business application domain may be recognized as a perfect match to solve a problem if the engagement manager’s vision is not blinded by a solution-owning mindset. Crowdsourcing is a tool to find the required expertise and energized thinking to solve a problem. It’s not to limit the empowerment of a solution owner.

And let’s not overlook the value of creating a FOMO (fear of missing out) narrative with some initial crowdsourcing successes. No one likes to be left with the old computer and/or old problem-solving methodologies.

Getting started. First, do your homework and find a crowdsourcing execution partner. Execute the correct operation model to attract a crowd of innovative thinkers with the expertise to solve your well-defined problem, either with a solution or a talent to get the job done. But after some limited education, learn by doing and put your toes into this open innovation model.

Certainly, create an internal organizational group of fellow innovators from legal, purchasing, supportive engagement managers and the like. But then move forward. Start with a pilot and rid the esoteric description of crowdsourcing for your organization so you are not missing out on this fast, emerging competitive talent resourcing model.


SIA’s CCWP Certification program covers the four standard pillars of a CW program’s talent sourcing channel portfolio: staffing partners; SOW/services procurement; direct sourcing; and on demand/human cloud. Learn more.