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In the past, when a project was too big for one person, we could either hire an expensive team, or ask people around us for favors. Today, we have a new option - we can ask a crowd of motivated strangers from around the world for help.
Neville was faced with a challenge. He was working on the world’s most difficult crossword puzzle and had a deadline one month away. This puzzle was meant for a team, but even with the help of his wife and brother, he’d never finish on time - and he couldn’t afford to hire help. But he had an idea.
He lived in a neighborhood with lots of smart people. His idea was to ask a large crowd of neighbors for a slice of their time in solving the puzzle. This way, a crowd of people, together, could achieve the goal.
As it turned out, his neighbors, who he didn’t know previously, loved crossword puzzles and were motivated to help. To make it easy, he put the puzzle in the center of the neighborhood so neighbors could contribute at any time. Darnell liked solving a couple of clues just before bed. Natalie solved one a day, just after work.
Within a couple of weeks, it all came together. The 20 different neighbors became a crowd of people who each worked on the project independently. They each found a slice of time they could devote when they wanted. Some were motivated by the challenge, others just loved to contribute.
Neville had to learn to keep up with and manage the crowd’s progress, but in the end he was able to solve the puzzle ahead of schedule and have time to throw a big party to celebrate! Yaaay!
While crossword puzzles may not be your goal - Neville’s story is all about crowdsourcing. Today, organizations and individuals have new opportunities to ask crowds of motivated people to help accomplish a goal by making their own independent contributions, often online.
Some crowd members may earn compensation, others may contribute for free. This means thousands of people can help translate a set of videos into 50 languages – quicker than any other method. It means hundreds of developers can help find bugs a complex software project and make it higher quality. It means a company can ask the crowd to analyze and tag thousands of images at very low cost. And lately, crowdfunding means that someone with a great idea can tap the crowd to raise funding to develop it.
In all of these cases, crowds of individuals contribute their own money or time, even minutes a day, on an idea or project that matters to them. When they do, individuals and organizations and are able to harness those contributions from the crowd, and complete a task or accomplish a goal that may have been too complex or expensive to accomplish otherwise. The question is: how can the crowd help you?
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