Smart Tools, Smart Results

I’ve spent a fair amount of time over the last two years meeting with representatives from industry, government and the NFP and academic sectors to discuss problems. Problems that they face, that they fear they’ll face as well as those that we can’t imagine yet. A favourite question of mine to ask is “what keeps you up at night?” — an attempt to cut through the day-to-day minutiae of politics, academia or the 9 to 5 of business.

Every time I ask that question it invariably triggers a conversation about a large, complex, intractable and often deep-rooted problem. For some solving this problem is their top institutional priority, for others it’s one of the long burning logs on the fire. At MindHive we believe that expertise is being redefined. Crowdsourcing shines the light across the usual, and not so usual, expert hideouts — whether they be universities, corporates and consulting firms, not-for-profits or government departments. It shines on the growing community of freelance, co-sharing, home-based consultants, and retired leaders. It creates a sandpit for collaboration that can help us solve these problems.

There is a growing acceptance by organisations that the expertise they need is better access to their own internal capabilities and expertise — plus — better engagement outside of their four walls. Governments have been relying on polling to get a read on the public’s position for years. But these methods are imperfect. Polling can be hideously unreliable and often fails to accurately reflect responses to complex problems. As Peter Bridgman raised with us last week on #Plebisite blog discussions: “The appellation ‘dumb’ might seem crude, but (like ‘common sense’) is shorthand for something quite important, an exhortation to use better tools and to use tools with care and thought when making major policy choices, ones that might change society for generations to come. A tool can be a dumb choice and yet produce a smart result — but smart choice of tools is more likely to deliver smart results!”

Crowdsourcing is not a perfect tool either. As it stands it is hard for large nets to distinguish between the solution they’re looking for and the solution they need to take notice of. We need to increasingly focus on ways to ensure that qualitative responses are visible and valued as well developing features and a methodology that focus on getting right questions to the right people as easily as possible.

How to better crowdsource a solution to your policy or strategy challenge? Here’s eight tips based on 35 MindHive pilots over the past couple of years. Pilots seeking solutions to what keeps our clients up at night. Hope you find them useful!

Be clear on your goals, timing and resources commitmentWhy are you crowdsourcing? Be sure to understand the value propositions that sit within the method. As an ideas marketplace, the opportunities are endless — however, unlocking this potential requires understanding where it sits in your ‘toolkit’.

Road test it

You don’t know if you don’t try it. Focus on balancing the objectives of your use with creating content that is engaging and relevant. You’ll find that participants begin to co-create ideas with you.

Create a crowd

Known knowns; unknown knowns; knowns unknowns and unknown unknowns. You decide who you feel it will be most helpful. Sometimes the magic of crowdsourcing is actually not deciding who will solve your problem — invite the unknown unknowns. Prod contributors by tagging them in comments. Crowds will engage if they understand there is a real want and desire for their contribution. Make sure your engagement is consistent.

And/or bring a crowd

Promote internally and to relevant colleagues and clients — this can be useful to ‘get the ball rolling’, create a fledgling idea; a green paper.

Don’t over think it

Be conversational, it is crowdsourcing ideas not a survey tool, be sure to say thank you when responding and progress the conversation, instead of simply asking another question.

Grow the conversation

Think Big. Be ambitious. The larger, more disruptive the crowd the better. You can invite new contributors at any point of a challenge. Keep looking for people within and outside the Hive. You don’t know who might solve your challenge. Keep the ball rolling!

Keep them in the loop

Crowds solve problems. Thank them; Let them know how these contributions are going to inform your problem. No one said it has to change the world — but no one is saying it won’t!

Give back

We need to work more collaboratively in order to create and gain value out of digital intermediaries. When engaging crowdsourcing be sure to balance your own objectives with the value you can give others. This collaborative approach will allow you to co-create real value.

Originally published at on 4 October, 2016.

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Bruce Muirhead is the CEO of Eidos Institute and the Founder of — More Blogs here:

Mindhive | ex — Eidos, Boilerhouse, Basement, Margaret Marr | Speaker, Author | Bringing the shared economy to problem-solving #collectiveintelligence