Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Emerging Maturity: How Crowdsourced Competition Enables Task Complexity

We made a pretty bold statement towards the end of our last blog post on Crowdsourcing:

"One way to look at the transition is to look at the change from an organization using “the internet” to engage the world, versus using “the cloud” to transform a business."

What does this mean, and how does competition foster it?

As stated previously, a crowdsourced-competition model exemplified by companies like 99Designs and Tongal ushers in a new era. Competition is the key element of a crowdsourcing platform that separates it from freelancer sites or services like Mechanical Turk. As a refresher, here are the key model differentiators:

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Let’s dive into this a little further.

Complex Tasks
Early crowdsourcing models did one of two things. They either added the internet to an old model (freelancing sites), or they focused on microtasks at scale (Mechanical Turk). While freelancing sites can handle complex tasks, they do so inefficiently and without scale. Microtask organizations by nature are not designed to handle complexity, though they are very efficient.

The simple answer here is that picking either complexity (freelancing), or scale (microtasks), is just plain easier to manage as a crowdsourcing platform than trying to hit upon both. It is hard to build a platform that drives complexity at scale through competition. Competitions are hard to manage correctly. It’s easier to either connect a business to an individual for a complex task, or connect a business to a crowd for repetitive microtasks.

In order to do it right, competition requires a sophisticated competition engine as part of the core crowdsourcing platform. As well, member satisfaction with the platform needs to be the topmost priority. 

When done correctly, competition allows crowdsourcing platforms to build very complex assets. This is because competition creates an arena where (1) experts are choosing their preferred projects and (2) businesses have cost efficiency. Businesses can use competition-based crowdsourcing to create entire websites with 99Designs, or create an end-to-end promotional video with Tongal. For certain very complex projects, it’s simply a matter of breaking it down into smaller challenges, and running those in an agile, loosely-coupled manner. 

(Stay tuned for the next post in this series, How Crowdsourced Competition Enables Variable Skills and Scale)

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