The power of collective action has been taken to a whole new level via the Web.

Crowdsourcing refers formally to the act of recruiting and calling to action a number of individuals in order to solve a central problem or perform individual tasks as part of a larger project.  This can be as part of a charitable or otherwise non commercial goal, such as the many user contributed and edited articles which make up Wikipedia, or on a commercial basis- for example Amazon’s ‘Human Turk’ freelancer operation, where businesses offer out ongoing and often repetitive work on a per action basis.

The term Crowdsourcing can also be used as a consumer demand term; for example Threadless, the online t-shirt retailer, releases new designs to be purchased only when enough members of its community have voted for, and paid for that design.  Either way, it seems clear that one common element of sucessful Crowdsourcing is the community and social element; commercial considerations give way to a feeling of working with others towards a single goal.

In business, you could do well to understand that not everyone is driven by profit- recognition and the feeling of having contributed to a sucessful project are often just as important to many people.  Perhaps if you have a problem then why not ask your customers to help en masse?

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