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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Is Crowdsourcing Disruptive?

by Stephen Shapiro

Is Crowdsourcing Disruptive?There was an excellent post by Hutch Carpenter on this website. In the article, he asked the question - "Is Crowdsourcing Disrupting the Design Industry?" He makes an excellent case for the value (and pitfalls) of crowdsourcing design work. As loyal readers know, I have used design crowdsourcing on several occasions.


In response to the article, I wrote:

I use crowdsourcing for some of my designs. And I have to admit, I do sometimes feel a little bad. It's clear some people put a fair amount of thought into their designs. Sadly, there is typically only one winner.

Having said that, as a consultant, no one feels bad for me when I spend days or weeks developing a proposal that does not get awarded to me. We recognize that it is the cost of doing business.

Let's face it... for some design work, it might be just as fast to develop a rough concept as it would be to develop a compelling proposal. Crowdsourcing can reduce the time and effort involved in selling design services.

And crowdsourcing, when done correctly, can give you (the 'Seeker') benefits that you would not get through conventional means.

Right now I am running a crowdsourcing competition for a design for my Personality Poker cards. The competition has been running for two days, and I received some amazing designs. Because I did a blind competition, everyone has to develop their own idea, rather than simply build on the idea of someone else. This is enhancing the level of creativity significantly.


The winner will get follow on work from me in fleshing out the concept and in future design work. [NOTE: The competition is over and I received 32 designs of which a half dozen of them were fantastic]

I used to use eLance (an eRFP site) for design work. But the results were not always great. Plus each designer has to submit a proposal and decide upon a fee. With 99designs, the designer knows the 'prize' and can decide if they want to invest any effort at all.

It's not spec work that is changing the rules. It is access to the masses. Personally, I would prefer to pay for a solution than a proposal.

I do think, if done well, design crowdsourcing can be beneficial to all involved.



Crowdsourcing has the potential to give designers a reach they have not previously had. Although their cost per design might go up, their cost of acquisition might actually go down. Proposals are a cost of doing business - and you don't win every proposal. Spending time/money on finding customers who want the proposal in the first-place is another cost - and you don't acquire every customer you target. Mailing marketing materials to potential customers is another real cost. The list goes on. The real cost/time associated with marketing/selling design services is not insignificant.

Crowdsourcing allows you to convert your marketing/selling time into design time. Your only cost is your time to develop the submitted designs. This feels like a much better use of design resources.


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Stephen ShapiroStephen Shapiro is the author of three books, a popular innovation speaker, and is the Chief Innovation Evangelist for Innocentive, the leader in Open Innovation.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Innovator said...

I find it interesting that you feel bad for the people who submit crowdsourcing designs and don't win. Frankly, I feel the same way although it's not completely logical.

Crowdsourcing provides a truly competitive environment. It's almost pure entrepreneurship. The type of environment business people often claim to want.

I think the fact that so many people are willing to submit their work through crowdsourcing validates the concept. If the suppliers say crowdsourcing is a good deal for them, we should accept it (yes, I'm trying to convince myself).

11:20 AM  
Anonymous Christian Logan said...

Crowdsourcing is a better way of communicating with a wide range of professionals from the same type of business. It helps in saving time and resource there are so many small businesses and individuals who need a platform to work from within, crowdsourcing the business gives them the opportunity to establish.

I agree that the winning part is saddening for the one who didnt win but think of the benefit that the small designers or any business owners get via this medium.

12:37 AM  

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