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by Randall Craig on July 20, 2012

Filed in: Blog, Learning, Make It Happen Tipsheet

Tagged as: , , ,

How often have you run into a creative roadblock? Or you were stumped with a problem that you couldn’t figure out? When this happens, we are usually operating under a conventional wisdom that artificially closes the door to possibility.

To break the block, one need only ask for help from ever-widening circles: colleagues, community, and the crowd.

Crowdsourcing is the antithesis of conventional wisdom. For the first time, the Social web has given each of us the opportunity to chime in with our unique perspective, comment on others’ ideas, and receive refinements on ours. The question, though, is how to most effectively do this.  Crowdsourcing 101:

  1. Define the question: Sometimes this means a thorough description of the underlying problem, so that the responses are laser-focused on the solution. Sometimes it means a shorter, intriguing, open-ended question to spur a creative discussion.
  2. Target: The audience you ask must have a stake in the outcome – the higher the stake, the better the responses. Curating a community of interest around your products, services, or ideas is far easier with Social Media than any other channel. It is this community that is most likely to respond with thoughtful ideas. If you don’t have a community of your own – or if you want to range further afield, you can “borrow” a community by sending your request via Twitter using a specific hashtag, or posting your request within a specific LinkedIn group.
  3. Carrot: While not always necessary, providing an incentive will change the response. Offering the incentive beforehand will mean more responses – including irrelevant ones. Offering the incentive afterwards as a thank-you will strengthen the relationship, and open the door to further conversation about their contribution.

There are downsides to crowd sourcing: You may tip your hand to a competitor. The request may open the floodgates for complaints. Or the ideas may unreasonably set expectations in the market. Yet, these potential problems each represent an opportunity: People are talking already – you may as well be part of the conversation, and influence it. High expectations are not a bad thing. And competitors are as likely to be mislead by your crowdsourcing questions, as led by them.

This week’s action plan: If you haven’t tried crowdsourcing, give it a try this week: it’s just about the best antidote to conventional wisdom there is.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

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Randall has been advising on Web and Social Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of seven books, including the recently released "Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business", and speaks across North America on Social Media and Web Strategy. More at and

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