Bringing customers inside

Last year, I wrote a post that expressed concern about a plan by the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) to “crowd-source” its strategic planning.

As it happens, at the same time I wrote the BISG post, the Wikimedia Foundation was conducting an experiment of its own. It used the Wikimedia community to open-source its strategy formulation, along the way learning several lessons that are summarized in a short article in the October 2010 issue of Harvard Business Review. Those lessons include:

Get ideas out early.” Contributors react to fully-formed ideas by saying just “yes” or “no”; earlier versions can help create dialogue and deeper insight.

Share the raw data.” Access to raw data lets participants analyze and perhaps uncover patterns that top-down assessments may not see.

Give people time.” A crowd-sourced process has to provide contributors with adequate time to consider, reflect and respond to data and comments.

Recognize when a crowd is just a crowd.” Wikimedia found that some decisions, like resource allocation, benefit from the participation and direction of senior management.

One of the things I missed in my earlier post: crowd-sourcing can be useful in opening up discussions that generate multiple options or alternatives. That said, any organization that uses crowd-sourcing to generate options must also have a structure and process to turn alternatives, even recommendations, into actions.

More nimble organizations may start to use crowd-sourcing as the “SWOT” analysis portion of strategy development. If that happens, they’ll also want to assess the opportunities available in keeping the crowd connected to the development process. Wikimedia appears to have made it organic and natural; I’m not sure how easily that approach will graft onto traditionally structured publishers.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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