Friday, October 24, 2008

Crowdsourcing - Why the Power of the Crowd is Driving the Future

I have a lot of books that I am working through right now. But I picked up one recently that I found fascinating called Crowdsourcing by Jeff Howe.

I have been reading several books on the power of social networking through the Internet and its implications for ministry and outreach, not to mention life itself. Crowdsourcing is one of these types of books.

The power of the crowd is phenomenal, but not perhaps how it might typically be thought of. The power of the crowd is not a "crowd" or "mob mentality." The power comes from each individual acting individually, in large numbers, problem-solving the same issue.

It is actually the diversity in this type of crowds that makes the crowd so effective in problem solving. If everyone thought alike, no new solutions would emerge.

Howe cites a Innocentive, an online group that posts problems in business, chemistry, and other fields that have not been solved, offering prizes for whoever comes up with the solutions. These are problems that all of the top people in a company have not been able to solve.

We might think that the solutions would come from other top people in the same field. For instance, a top chemist in another company solving a chemistry problem that no one else could solve.

Instead, most of the solutions to these problems came from people solving problems outside of their fields. For instance, physcicists came up with physic solutions to chemistry problems. They saw solutions that chemists never were able to see because of their different perspective and background. The power for problem-solving came from the diversity of the crowd--a physicist looking at chemisty problems.

This got me thinking. Rather than having only "evangelism experts," for instance come up with outreach ideas, we ought to have a wide diversity of people looking at these issues. Someone is sure to come up with a great idea that experts have missed, because of his or her different background.

Where else might the power of diverse crowds be helpful in ministry or outreach?