Crowdsourcing: A viable approach for building your organization's storytelling capacity

man-in-crowdIn my post last week I talked about Cloud computing, and new ways organizations are using external service providers to address their computer application needs.  How does storytelling fit into that mix?  Given stories can be one of your organization’s most important knowledge assets, what new opportunity is out there for building your storytelling capacity?  Crowdsourcing may be that opportunity, if your data is accessible!

The problem: Your organization’s story is going untold!

  • You have lots of information, yet few stories.
  • You want to tell your story.
  • You know the value of a good story.
  • You have minimal capacity to develop new stories and/or breathe new life into the old ones!

Some ways you can address the problem:

  • Develop your personal capacity to tell your (organization’s) story
  • Develop your organization’s internal capacity for storytelling
  • Hire a consulting firm to help you develop and tell your story
  • Outsource the storytelling process

Crowdsourcing: Another approach for moving forward

Crowdsourcing is a distributed problem-solving and production model.  Your problem (i.e., too few stories) is broadcoast to an unknown group of solvers (i.e., potential story-tellers) in the form of an open call for solutions (i.e., stories).  These potential solvers (the online crowd) submit solutions.  Solutions are judged (there’s various models for doing this), with the organization (that broadcast the problem) taking ownership of the winning solution(s).  The concept of group intelligence is not new.  Crowdsourcing, the term, is.  Here in this 3 minute video, Jeff Howe (coiner of the term in 2006) provides his own summary:

The journey from information manager to storyteller

Here’s how I envision it, and crowdsourcing’s contribution

  1. Identify your online information sources: videos, pictures, web links, reports, anecdotal, (and with an eye to future information sources/insight, check out this Vimeo video about SONAR, an enterprise email analysis tool; thanks to Naumi Haque for this)
  2. Organize the information using time as an organizing principle; Dipity’s interactive timelines provide an interesting example on how to do this
  3. Engage the storytellers; make your information accessible (this is critical!) to the crowd; develop evaluation criteria and publicize the opportunity; the The District of Columbia’s Apps for America initiatives is a leading example of this approach
  4. Create the stories; solution providers (e.g., the artisans, craftspersons) provide their emotion-charged narrative and mashups to realize the magic of storytelling; for more about that MAGIC, read this great interview of Peter Guber, veteran films maestro (thanks to Margaret Harrison of the Our HR Company for bringing this to our attention on LinkedIn’s Corporate Story Telling discussion group)
  5. Share and learn; share the best stories (The Story of a Loan remains one of my favourite examples); interact with your audience; listen; learn

What this approach offers:

  • It’s built around where today’s conversations are; i.e., increasingly online
  • Problems can be explored at comparatively little cost, and often very quickly
  • It expands the (story telling) talent pool
  • It expands your community via contribution and collaboration
  • It’s interactive throughout inviting engagement and feedback
  • Each step (e.g., organize the information) provides value on it’s own
  • It’s based on a living structure; e.g., new events (information sources) are added as they happen (with narratives to follow?)
  • Allows for diversity of perspectives, multiple stories
  • It facilitates knowledge management, e.g., by connecting the narrative to information sources

Some challenges with this approach:

  • Crowdsourcing is not an established business practice; little precedence to move forward on.
  • Added costs to bring a project to an acceptable conclusion?
  • Increased likelihood that a project will fail; e.g., due to lack of monetary motivation, too few participants, lower quality of work
  • How to fairly compensate providers?
  • New process/language required for crowdsourcing written contracts, non-disclosure agreements.  Difficult to maintain a working relationship with crowdsourced workers throughout the duration of the project

Why do it?

Stories move us to action.  We need more good stories. I think crowdsourcing offers another way for organizations to develop those stories.  What do you think?

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Photo credit: byrne7214


  1. Cost of Assisted Living says

    I liked this blog very much it gives me inspiration to do something more. This is a blog which is full of great knowledge and it is really a good work to share our knowledge with others. Great Job…

  2. Thanks Cost of Assisted Living. I’m glad you’re enjoying the content of my blog. And it sounds like we’re both on the same page when it comes to the benefits of open knowledge sharing.

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