What is crowdsourcing? That's a question I get many times as an Author of the Best Selling Business Book - We Are Smarter than Me - which was written by 4,500 strangers and myself and Jon Spector (The CEO of the Conference Board).
My answer. It is a group of people that come together to solve a problem (brainstorm) using today's social, mobile and cloud technologies. According to Wikipedia Crowdsourcing is "a process that involves outsourcing tasks to a distributed group of people. This process can occur both online and offline, and the difference between crowdsourcing and ordinary outsourcing is that a task or problem is outsourced to an undefined public rather than a specific body, such as paid employees".
To provide further color to this definition, I have included an info graphic (BTW: I really like these one page graphical displays of issues, opportunities and general trends). The info graphic explores crowd sourcing from multiple perspectives: what it means, where the term originated, and how it works. The pros and cons of crowd sourcing are also lightly revealed.
Based on my long term experience with Crowdsourcing, crowds combined with today's social, mobile and cloud technologies can deliver extraordinary value to society, government and businesses Crowds can help them solve problems that are very wide ranging including developing a thoughtful marketing campaign (Dorito's), a cutting therapeutic drug (ALS), a new new product (Starbucks), and customer support (Dell).
The best example I like to use is Apple. Steve Jobs leveraged his dedicated and fanatical developer community to produce 'mobile apps' for the iPhone that made them the most valuable company in the world. In the process, the developer crowd received $5 billion (that's right, billion) in royalties from Apple.
If you are a board member, leader or manager of an organization, its time to start leveraging crowds (in concert with today's technologies) to drive your top and bottom line. The crowd is out there and waiting for you to contact them. You will be surprised how much they want to help. Don't be afraid, they won't bite!