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Crowdsourcing: Who really innovates?

April 6, 2012

I found this article very interesting, though I have to admit off that bat that I don’t entirely agree with it.

In The Myth of Crowdsourcing, Dan Woods offers a critique of crowdsourcing, claiming in fact that it doesn’t really exist.  According to Woods, crowds to not innovate, individuals do.  All of the supposed products of crowdsourcing, from Wikipedia to Linux, are really the creations of a few talented individuals.  According to Woods, the concept of an innovation coming from a group or crowd of people is “a false idea” and “a blow to the image of the heroic inventor.”

I can see Woods’ point.  There have been many great individual innovators to whom our modern world owes much of its existence.  But this does not rule out the emergence of an idea from a group of people, and it does not rule out the notion that such ideas will emerge with greater frequency in the 21st century.  Even great individual innovators cannot carry out their ideas individually.  No human is an island, and we all require assistance from others to help get our ideas of the ground.

While I doubt that crowdsourcing will become the way to do business in the 21st century, I do believe its importance cannot be underestimated.  Woods’ article reads like a dire warning of the demise of rugged American individualism.  Yet individualism is another ideal concept that can be dismissed as a myth.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 6, 2012 4:45 pm

    This was an interesting article. The author does create his own straw man to pick at. Crowd sourcing is often about getting groups of people to work on tasks or projects. In this case, like Wikipedia, it is just breaking work into pieces and giving it to people not in an organization.
    I do agree with the author that groups do not innovate without a strong and motivated leader. But saying that crowd sourcing cannot solve problems is not really the point. Crowd sourcing is an attempt to find the leaders that can solve the problem when an organization cannot.

    jim

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