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Crowdsourcing and the skills hierarchy

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Crowdsourcing and the skills hierarchy

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In our increasingly knowledge driven economy, access to the best and the brightest is often the principle competitive advantage in the marketplace.  It is this desire for the best talent that has seen many organisations take to the crowd, firm in their belief that the best talent is as likely to reside outside as it is inside their organisation.

Difficulty is of course often in the eye of the beholder, and when aiming to maximise the talent at ones disposal, few organisations will want to assign an easy task to a highly skilled individual.  A new paper argues that the solution to such a problem is the creation of a skills hierarchy whereby easier tasks are assigned to lower skilled people, thus freeing up the highly skilled for the really challenging tasks.

Suffice to say however, that in a crowdsourced environment, it’s often extremely challenging to know the skills available in the crowd.  This is often touted as the key value of crowdsourcing in that the organisation doesn’t need to arbitrage on an individual basis, as the crowd selects itself.

The paper argues however that not only can these relationships be organised, but doing so will ensure the optimal return from crowdsourcing.  Central to this theory is a pricing mechanism whereby tasks become more valuable the longer they remain unsolved by the crowd.

They outline a couple of mechanisms whereby such a marketplace can be created.  For instance a tournament style approach could be adopted whereby participants are rewarded for completing tasks before anyone else.

The paper also outlines the importance to such a marketplace of a users reputation, and the importance therefore of any crowdsourcing platform having a robust reputation management system in place that both supports the development of a reputation but also ensures contributors are liable for their inputs.

Whilst it’s certainly an interesting paper, I’m inclined to think that the benefits of crowdsourcing is that it allows you to tap into knowledge you didn’t know existed.  What’s more, the time spent on an unsuccessful task is generally not a cost for the organisation, but rather the participant.

It may be suggesting a problem therefore that doesn’t really exist.  The paper is free to download though so have a look and let me know your thoughts.

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