January 20, 2011

The limits of crowdsourcing

At the #BAexec event last week, one of the interesting questions from the floor was “could the iPhone have been produced via crowdsourcing?”

My immediate reaction was “no”. What’s made Apple so special for the past 13 years has been the solitary, laser-focused vision of product design brought by its CEO. Of course, that’s just the supposition of a 35-year Apple-watcher.

What I think was more interesting was: what are the limits of crowdsourcing? Those who study crowdsourcing consider its advantages for accessing heterogeneous knowledge bases or sheer scale of ideas. But integrating that hodgepodge of ideas — no matter how good — can be daunting if not labor intensive.

The Business of Systems IntegrationI guess this comes back to a simple point: for some innovations, the integration of technologies is more important than the individual technologies themselves. But then anyone who’s read about the iPhone would know that such cases exist.

1 comment:

Oliver said...

Hi Joel,

Super-interesting question! My basic argument would be that the limits of crowdsourcing are of cognitive/attention-based nature - the firm running the crowdsourcing efforts has to process all the stuff that comes in. In a recent working paper, we are trying to look at how firms can overcome these limitations.