Crowd-sourcing as a Leadership Tool

The general thought of today’s Crowd-sourcing panel was that listening is good but over-listening is bad. Crowd-sourcing is at its most valuable when it is used as a tool by bold leaders.

The speakers touched on several ways that crowd-sourcing and leadership must coexist. And, unsurprisingly, they fit into many of the themes I have heard a lot of at SXSW

1. Non Zero-Sum: there cannot be a winner and a loser. If you are going to reach out to people for ideas or feedback you have to give something back in return. And you have to give back in a real way. It can be as simple as a free coffee. Or as intangibly valuable as professional credibility. You cannot just mine a community, you have to create one.

2. You must cultivate creativity internally: Crowd-sourcing doesn’t just mean reaching outside the wall of your organization for new ideas. It can also mean searching within. Great ideas come from so many places, why not look to the talent pool you have put such effort into hiring?

3. You must have a Purpose: With crowd-sourcing you get so much feedback and so many ideas, you can’t possibly implement them all. And how do you weed out the good ideas from the bad? If you know your company’s purpose it’s easy to filter… those that support your purpose can stay. Get rid of the others.

4. You have to have a thick skin: Accepting and surviving failure has been such a recurring idea at SXSW. Crowd-sourcing means you know very quickly if you have failed. You have two options. Reverse your action as Gap did with their logo snafu or grow a really thick skin like Apple with pretty much all of their snafus.

Today’s leaders still have to make the decisions and have the answers, but they now have a new tool. Crowd-sourcing cannot replace leadership, but it can reinvent it for the better.


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