Crowdsourcing: This is how you implement the new co-economy in your company

Digital technologies, infrastructures and ecosystems enable new forms of collaboration. This has consequences for creative processes such as innovative project and product development. Companies and freelancers can already help shape this new co-economy.

More and more creative people are communicating their concepts and ideas openly instead of closing themselves off behind closed doors. This is accompanied by the request to participate in the generation of ideas, implementation or financing if you are interested. The web finally makes it possible: At least since the sociologist Manuel Castell put forward his thesis “Rise of Network Society”, we have understood a society and economic structure primarily as a network with decentralized value creation processes and global access to resources such as work, knowledge and capital – but also their bundling and redistribution with regard to supply and demand. In order to understand this new, digital social order, one has to understand the underlying mechanisms and motivations. The “Wikinomics” approach of management professor Don Tapscott plays a role here, but so does the knowledgeable use of the technical infrastructures.

Collaborative value creation

[metabox keyword = “crowdsourcing“] The co-economy primarily drives common goals: the successful implementation of projects, the desire to be able to help design products, or the advantages of a shared and thus expanded knowledge and creative pool. However, the collaborative approach does not exclude economic interests. Often collaborative processes even conserve resources and are therefore more efficient than self-sufficient approaches. On the one hand, the co-economies can be used within the company: for example, as an idea or forecast exchange, where the wisdom of the many helps to weigh and make strategic decisions; on the other hand, in the form of cooperation with other companies, customers or, in general, an expanded community of like-minded people. The latter are mostly online marketplaces where companies advertise creative concepts or other digital services (globally). The consensus: Those who are open to exchange learn and promote innovations. He reaches a wide target group with his product or concern and finds supporters in the implementation and financing of his ideas. Nevertheless, the co-economy is not a sure-fire success, but needs to be controlled. The hierarchies are distributed differently, but tasks and content still have to be curated. The basic infrastructure includes corresponding online networks and tools such as (digital) payment services. Without these technical requirements with correspondingly good usability, open collaboration is only possible to a limited extent – or at least not to the extent that is available today. on which companies advertise creative concepts or other digital services (globally). The consensus: those who are open to exchange learn and promote innovations. He reaches a wide target group with his product or concern and finds supporters in the implementation and financing of his ideas. Nevertheless, the co-economy is not a sure-fire success, but needs to be controlled. The hierarchies are distributed differently, but tasks and content still have to be curated. The basic infrastructure includes appropriate online networks and tools such as (digital) payment services. Without these technical requirements with correspondingly good usability, open collaboration is only possible to a limited extent – or at least not to the extent that is available today. on which companies advertise creative concepts or other digital services (globally). The consensus: those who are open to exchange learn and promote innovations. He reaches a wide target group with his product or concern and finds supporters in the implementation and financing of his ideas. Nevertheless, the co-economy is not a sure-fire success, but needs to be controlled. The hierarchies are distributed differently, but tasks and content still have to be curated. The basic infrastructure includes corresponding online networks and tools such as (digital) payment services. Without these technical requirements with correspondingly good usability, open collaboration is only possible to a limited extent – or at least not to the extent that is available today.

Marketplaces, creative portals, innovation platforms

In addition to crowdsourcing marketplaces such as99designs *  (for logos or web design) and oDesk  (for all types of creative services) or creative portals such as Jovoto  , there are above all innovation platforms such as Quirky  or UnserAllerthat promote a new type of collaborative creation: Here people develop ideas for products, product variants or improvements together. This co-creation is a strategic approach in which users create new services, products or ideas as part of a collaborative process (via the corresponding online platform). This has resulted in a fundamental paradigm shift in the relationship between client and customer as well as company and customer, but also in classic value creation. The community is driven by intrinsic motives such as the prospect of reputation, fun or interest in the product. Or extrinsic remuneration, such as an advertised prize money for the best designs. While on the crowdsourcing marketplaces creatives offer their services in an open infrastructure for hourly rates, fixed amounts or in the form of pitches, companies on the innovation platforms also use closed contests to treat designs more discreetly and thus in accordance with the group. In all cases, the rights to the drafts only change hands after confirmation by both parties, whereby the structures of the platform cover the handling (e.g. payment). In the case of open idea platforms, the companies must also ensure external community management (controlled by the company or an agency) in order to motivate the participants and ensure prompt feedback on the suggestions. Companies also use closed contests for their innovation platforms in order to treat drafts more discreetly and thus in accordance with the group. In all cases, the rights to the drafts only change hands after confirmation by both parties, whereby the structures of the platform cover the handling (e.g. payment). In the case of open idea platforms, the companies must also ensure external community management (controlled by the company or an agency) in order to motivate the participants and ensure prompt feedback on the suggestions. Companies also use closed contests for their innovation platforms in order to treat drafts more discreetly and thus in accordance with the group. In all cases, the rights to the drafts only change hands after confirmation by both parties, whereby the structures of the platform cover the handling (e.g. payment). In the case of open idea platforms, the companies must also ensure external community management (controlled by the company or an agency) in order to motivate the participants and ensure prompt feedback on the suggestions.

Implementation and requirements: Multi-stage review process

If you want to successfully implement such an online community, you should follow a few rules when building and operating the platform. The founder of the platform UnserAller Catharina van Delden, for example, relies on a project structure in several phases and a multi-stage review process. In their view, the proposal and coordination phases should always run separately. Ideally, invisible pre-voting limits the number of suggestions in the review and thus guarantees a minimum quality. The community has the last word, but the manufacturer can ensure the strategy and production fit. “Every project should be structured like a good brainstorming session. At the beginning, ideas are spun wildly and only then narrowed down, ”explains Catharina van Delden. “The biggest mistake in crowdsourcing product development is voting without prior review. It then inevitably appears as if the manufacturer is putting itself above the community, ”says van Delden. UnserAller relies primarily on good sorting algorithms that organize the display of ideas during the proposal phase. Every idea should have an equal chance of finding supporters in the proposal phase. In addition, a good mix of new things as well as exciting and good suggestions must always appear on the first page. It is recommended that the moderator summarize similar or identical ideas during the review or split suggestions. Finally, you need a closed area for elaboration: after the winner has been determined, the community dialogue should not stop. So it would make sense To let the winners participate in how their ideas actually flow into the product concept. At UnserAller, for example, this works via a closed project in which all winners of a phase can have a say.

Collaboration and co-working: online meets workspace

Models that connect online communities with physical workspaces take a slightly different approach – such as the co-working network  Seats2meet  from the Netherlands. The business model is based on the “social currency” – that is, the knowledge, skills and contacts – that the freelancers involved bring into the community. The deal is: registration on the online platform for free workspace, coffee and lunch. This lively creative community thus attracts companies that pay for the use of the infrastructure. In the US, a similar project was initiated by former Second Life founder and advocate of virtual worlds and currencies, Philip Rosedale. Who for his work  club is registered in San Francisco, has access to a mapping system that lists requests and offers: from print design to courier rides to Spanish courses. In addition, there is another platform called  Worklist . It is an open developer network that brings startups and programmers together. With these different elements, Rosedale wants to redefine the future of work, in the virtual and the physical world.

Conclusion: a new management style is required

These developments are one of the biggest changes of our time for many corporate areas – but especially for innovative project and product development – and require a completely new management style that knows and takes into account the collaborative value creation processes and new infrastructures as well as the needs of the associated community.

Positive effect of collaborative work requirement
Flexible access to ideas, work and capital Transparency, simplicity and good usability of the platforms
Better use of resources Adequate system for fair, targeted remuneration
Extended creative pool with a view of the bigger picture Clarification and protection of intellectual property
Greater creative freedom for individuals More individual responsibility and motivation

Basically, the individuals of the co-economy work more self-organized and responsible than ever before. Nevertheless, they need functioning infrastructures that allow them to work more flexibly in terms of time and space. Ultimately, this development also demands a lot from companies. Because flat hierarchies are by no means synonymous with less responsibility. On the contrary: With the disruption of previous work processes, the complexity of process control increases dramatically. All those involved have to position themselves in these new digital technologies, infrastructures and ecosystems and help shape new processes as well as possible.

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