The global marketplace is changing fast. For instance, the use of the social media, such as Twitter, has grown considerably. One of the most notable benefits of the media is that it is instantaneous, thus it facilitates speedy passages of information amongst people. However, several challenges undermine the significance of the media when employed as a sourcing platform. Crowdsourcing is one of the sourcing methods that have developed partly due to the changes that are sweeping the business environment. Crowdsourcing is defined as a work opportunity, traditionally done by an assigned agent (employee), giving it to an undefined large group of persons (Netzley 2011). Wikipedia presents the best example of crowdsourcing, since the site allows people to volunteer information on almost every range of issues towards the creation of an encyclopaedia. Given the challenges involved in crowdsourcing, it is argued that positive leadership and management remain critical in carrying out a successful project.
Challenges of Crowdsourcing Based on the Case of Twittamentary
Social sites, such as Twitter, play a major role in the process of crowdsourcing. One of the controversies generated out of the usage of Twitter is the veracity of its content (Netzley 2011). For instance, the current case points out reservations raised by the New York Times about the information shared by Twitter users that cannot pass the rigor-test, which is supposed to be the basis for news reporting. In particular, US congressmen came under attack for tweeting a president’s speech instead of paying attention to its content. Hence, crowdsoucing differs from traditional sourcing, regarding the authenticity of information.
Other concerns persist, such as the effect of social media on the development of children. It is apparent that the development of children is central to keeping them with societal traditions. However, exposing young people to the media has adverse effects to their growth, since the content is not filtered according to variations in their ability to process information (Prpić, Taeihagh & Melton 2014). Other issues related to the use of the media include: an increase in narcissism, plagiarism, an attention deficit disorder, disrespect for intellectual property rights, deficient intellectual depth, and undesirable political alterations to the way of thinking and learning.
Citing the case of Naked Conversations, ramifications of crowdsourcing appear evident. The piece of writing was released online, before being prepared for sale (Netzley 2011). The motivation was to invite readers to share their views on the content. However, posting drafts to a blog, readers encouraged co-creation. Since the book became open for sharing before being put up for sale, matters became more complicated because the World Wide Web is home to many fraudsters likely to take advantage of early availability of a book. Such people reproduce and distribute drafts with the intention of earning returns. Viewed differently, the Internet was presenting new challenges to the traditional position on the writing process, intellectual property, and sale of products. Other related concerns affect newspapers, films, music, since producers struggled to counter the emerging online space, which facilitated the reproduction and distribution of content.
In addition, it is noted that not each instance of crowdsourcing has been successful. The search for Steve Fosset, the American entrepreneur who went missing after flying in a balloon across the world, is the example of the failures of crowdsourcing (Netzley 2011). Despite the identification of numerous leads on finding the missing celebrity, none led to an answer. Surprisingly, hikers accidentally found the aviator’s remains.
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Some cases, such as the one of iStockphoto, which focuses on free stock images, design elements, and media, demonstrate variations between traditional outsourcing and crowdsourcing. The site served as a clearinghouse that brought together content producers and consumers, such as designers and photographers (Netzley 2011). Procedurally, artists could visit the site to place their content up for sale. The move allowed consumers to enjoy convenience because they could access a range of products from their homes or wherever they were. The content was sold without royalty attachments, leading to reduced prices. Bought images could be reused without making additional payments. Despite the mentioned advantages, critics quickly alleged that the site was disruptive to a well-established market. In particular, they pointed that the new arrangement led to lowered prices and disappearance of royalty payments. In spite of the drop in earnings, the cost of processing photography and pictures kept rising. Thus, the changes contributed to complicating a market that traditionally ran smoothly.
Despite the negative assertions about crowdsourcing, some benefits are discerned. As technological developments continue to take place, the business/ organizational world is also changing at an unprecedented pace. For instance, it is now possible to convert peoples’ thinking into eBook or PDF file formats for readers to consume the information more quickly. Such progress contrasts with previous occurrences, which required more time to prepare, they had to be printrd before distribution (Brabham 2008). Thus, crowdsourcing is much cheaper, faster, and easier than the traditional sourcing of information.
The phrase ‘development hell’ has been associated with the difficulties involved in developing films. As Tan observes, the case of Twittamentary, securing funding, convincing cinema and theatre owners to play films, was a daunting task, which presented a challenge to operators in the industry (Netzley 2011). In particular, the close relationship between cinema and studio owners complicated the operations of independent filmmakers. The complication partly contributed to the unwillingness of investors to venture into the film industry. In light of the difficulties encountered within the film industry because of the traditional approach to production and distribution, it is sensible to claim that crowdsourcing is a solution to a range of business concerns.
Major Concerns to General Crowdsourcing
Many organizations that seek to apply crowdsourcing to solve disputes must be informed that several challenges need to be addressed. Engaging with crowds of people, using intermediaries or expert networks require a cautious approach, since on paper the sourcing method seems great, but in practice it is complicated (Brabham 2008). It is now dawning on companies that crowdsourcing can result in fatal problems. In some cases, crowdsourcing benefits have been eclipsed by the attendant challenges.
One of the problems that crowdsourcing elicits is the breakdown of confidentiality (Howe 2009). As previously indicated, crowdsourcing involves an invitation to a crowd, which might comprise competitors, detractors, and other unknown people. Thus, the approach exposes an organisation since competitors or parties with ill intentions get knowledge about what is being pursued. Giving details about an entity’s problems or organisational aspirations amounts to publicly displaying an organisation’s engagements, which is likely to prove costly in business terms. Hence, the fact that an organisation can only have a limited degree of confidence in a group of unknown people, justifies a common practice of holding back some information. Such an approach complicates the solution development process because it is possible that critical details that could be useful are withheld. Overall, the quality of the solutions received is adversely affected because of the inadequacy in the information given to experts.
The role of communication in carrying out a project cannot be overemphasised. Given that crowdsourcing entails reaching out to a big group of unknown people, effective communication becomes more desirable. However, Howe (2009) acknowledged that communicating with such people is complicated because of the diversity that they bring on board. It is more intriguing since one of the basics of solving a problem is understanding of the issue that has to be resolved. In the absence of a clear comprehension, it remains highly unlikely that an appropriate solution would be arrived at. Figuring a typical crowdsourcing scenario depicts an image that irrespective of the illustrations used to bring out a problem, the fact remains that the conversation is one-sided, since an entity highlights a problem in need of a solution (Larson & Gray 2014). In essence, little dialogue takes place. The implication is that the persons to whom the task is assigned are left with huge gaps to fill. Hence, they end up relying on assumptions. Working within such an environment poses a danger because problem solvers are likely to develop off-target or outside of scope responses. Concisely, the confidence that crowdsourcing would generate the appropriate solutions remain low. Hence, there exists a big possibility of wasting time and resources.
Naturally, receiving a high number of alternative solutions to a problem is good. However, adopting an Intellectual Property (IP) standpoint, the probability of creating a stalemate situation increases (Howe 2009). In the face of many solutions, the choice of the one to take is intriguing. Further, the lack of detailed information on such solutions complicates matters. Viewed differently, adopting a solution generated via crowdsourcing requires assessing of legal ramifications to avoid opening the floodgates for legal tussles with other parties. Besides, after selecting a solution, organisations are required to respect intellectual property rights due to rejected options. Often, it is not easy to recall all rejected ideas, especially after some time passed. Moreover, there is a possibility that some ideas from the rejected solutions were a part of the internal research process of the organisation (Larson & Gray 2014). In such a case, an organisation that employs the crowdsourcing approach exposes itself to unforeseen legal challenges. To overcome the challenge, companies need to mitigate their interaction with IP contamination.
It is critical that ideas are not confused with solutions. In line with the position, it is argued that as the number of competitors increases, the level of efforts committed declines. Put differently, the reward/ risk ratio shrinks as participants refuse to commit for free to a project whose returns are not guaranteed. Few players are likely to invest utmost efforts towards such a project given the unpredictable nature of the outcome. The ultimate result is that crowdsourcing solutions from a large number of participants lead to the generation of ideas rather than solutions. The primary reason rests on the fact that many resources are incurred in developing fully implementable solutions, comparing them to ideas. Without downplaying the role of ideas, it is observed that they lack a record of accomplishment or an implementation framework, unlike solutions. Thus, generating ideas would leave an entity with an enormous task of implementing them.
Crowdsourcing is also controversial because it might create burdens for an organisation’s technical staff. Howe (2009) observed that in given instances, crowdsourcing can provide useful ideas, although organisations need to fit them into their existing frameworks to maximise proposals’ benefits. Such would require a huge investment, which goes against the primary aim of outsourcing. Presenting a new dilemma is the least of expectations when organisations embrace outsourcing.
Importance of Leading Instead of Managing Projects
In a case such as the one presented, leadership is of utmost significance, given the challenges that crowdsourcing faces. After reviewing the literature on leadership theory and practice, Northouse (2007) concluded that leadership is critical for executing projects. According to Northouse the leadership process is important because it entails influence whereby one individual prevails over one or more individuals in pursuing common objectives. For the Twittamentary project to succeed, leadership must play an influential role in inspiring contributors and users about its usefulness. Kotter (2000) offered a slightly different proposition, having contrasted leadership with management. The author observed that while management focused on enhancing predictability, consistency, and order through planning, controlling, budgeting, staffing, and solving problems, leadership concentrates on producing change as it involves establishing direction by visioning, aligning people with a vision, and motivating or inspiring the staff. The Twittamentary project is about change hence leadership is needed more than management is. Based on this distinction, leading or leadership would play a more useful role in taking the case of Twittamentary forward than management would. In advancing such a project, clear leadership to provide a vision, motivation, and direction are necessary. Lewis, Packard, and Lewis (2007) who indicated that leadership influences the coordination and configuration of organisational processes, further support the role of leading in projects.
Despite the knowledge that some outsourcing attempts have failed, it is projected that in the future, business would continue embracing the approach. Hence, organisations should explore ways to remain relevant amidst the changing business dynamics.
Although crowdsourcing eases the participation in business matters, concerns over the quality of the information or content that is shared or submitted by unknown people from various sections of the world remain unresolved. In such a case where veracity/ authenticity of content is questioned, its usage in developing films cannot be guaranteed. However, it is apparent that despite the challenges, crowdsourcing provides independent and emerging filmmakers with a chance to produce films for the market without facing the hurdles (negotiations, funding, and distribution) listed earlier. Irrespective of many challenges, if adopted under good leadership and management, crowdsourcing promises solutions to business concerns.