Monday, September 13, 2010

Five Crowdsourcing Lessons: The IFTF BodyShock / 12@12 Campaign Experience

About three weeks ago I took a leap of faith.

I received a DM tweet from Natalie Hodge, M.D. asking me to consider submitting an idea to improve global well-being as part of the Institute for the Future's BodyShock challenge. I went out to the website, quickly scanned the information and decided I didn't have the time needed to put together something meaningful in the 10 days before the submission deadline.

A few hours later, I saw a reminder tweet about an upcoming tweetchat from a group I belong to called CoHealth. The tweetchat was about crowdsourcing. And I thought, why not put the two events together? Why not get the CoHealth group to crowdsource a submission for the BodyShock challenge?

CoHealth's leaders, Fran Melmed and Greg Matthews, were onboard with the idea as long as I agreed to lead it. CoHealth had recently switched their platform to Bob Merberg's the Employee Wellness Network and Bob was supportive of using the site to capture the discussion. The last piece fell in place when I was able to successfully coerce Ben Miller to be my co-lead.

Immediately following our tweetchat, we were off to the races. You can read our discussion here . And view our  YouTube submission as well. The bottom line is that within 10 days, there were more than 3600 views of our discussion and over 70 posts from 17 contributors.

The interesting thing is that, even though the active discussion is over, the viewers keep coming. As of this morning, there were more than 4100 views of the crowdsourced stream.

So, why this post? A number of people asked me to do a quick post-mortem about what we learned from our health crowdsourcing experience. At some point, Ben Miller and I plan to write an article about it but, for the sake of immediacy, I'll jot a few of our learnings here.

  1. Make it easy for people to participate. Ben is a psychologist and he suggested that our group begin by simply listing a few words and/or phrases that described what made you passionate about health. It was a simple, non-threatening way for people to jump in. 
  2. Give a timeframe for each phase of the crowdsourced discussion. Most people respond best to deadlines.
  3. Provide encouragement. If you're leading the group, provide positive feedback for the participants' ideas and comments and encourage everyone else to do the same. This also helps you begin to crystalize an idea as people identify and build from the ideas that strike a positive chord.
  4. Bring people from other backgrounds into the discussion. Three of our crowdsourcing participants provided concrete idea suggestions from which the group could build. They were interested in the topic but none of them were health care, wellness or prevention experts. I think it was easy for them to look at the discussion and not get trapped in theory. They could simply say, "I think this is cool."
  5. Don't get in the way of the discussion. If you're leading or facilitating the group, try to keep your opinions to a minimum. Your job is to keep the group moving ahead, feeling good about the discussion and sticking to the deadlines.
As I've learned more about crowdsourcing, I found out we really didn't do crowdsourcing the way it is usually done, which lead to another learning for me:

  • Don't let perfection prevent you from trying something new
It turns out that crowdsourcing is usually done in one of two ways.

  1. Someone posts a request for ideas, people submit their individual proposals and the person who submitted the request chooses the one they like the best and moves forward with that proposal and the individual who submitted it. Or,
  2. A list of ideas or proposals are put together and the crowd votes for the idea they like best. The Pepsi Refresh Project is one example of crowdsourced voting.
Our ignorance about crowdsourcing allowed us to explore a new dimension of how to use the wisdom of crowds. We used the crowd to create, build and ship an idea. And we did it in 10 days! We broke new ground and we learned a lot about a different way to do collaborative thinking.

So, those are my quick thoughts and lessons learned about one way to use crowdsourcing.