What Napoleon Can Teach C-Level Executives About Innovation and Crowdsourcing
At the turn of the 19th century, Napoleon Bonaparte was busy conquering parts of Europe. Facing the enemy was a big challenge, but he had other challenges as well. Feeding his army was a massive challenge because food would spoil. In order to solve this issue, Napoleon turned to a crowdsourcing solution. He offered 12,000 Francs to anyone who could figure out how to keep food fresh on the battlefield. Out of the crowd came Nicolas Appert who responded to the challenge and his solution was canned goods. As a result, Napoleon had a well-fed army and could now focus on his main job of being an Emperor.
Crowdsourcing solutions aren’t a new concept, but it has taken time for companies to embrace their benefits. Moving forward into the 21st century, we see a variety of companies that have shattered traditional business models using crowdsourcing. YouTube came along, crowdsourced content and developed a new media platform to view video. eBay broke traditional auction models with a website that crowdsources products. Facebook smashed traditional communication methods by crowdsourcing content and providing people with a new way to communicate.
History tells us that business models are meant to be broken. The marketplace is experiencing exponential growth on the technology side and companies need to adjust their business practices accordingly. Market disruption is happening at a faster pace than ever before. The need to transform is so great that if a company is not disrupting it is getting disrupted. As a result, C-Level executives are embracing crowdsourcing solutions as they recognize the need to embrace disruptive business models in order to adapt quickly to market changes.
One of the more interesting areas of crowdsourcing is the use of prizes as a motivating tactic to create radical change. Microsoft founder Bill Gates, has embraced crowdsourcing solutions for his foundation. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is currently sponsoring a $250,000 prize for the development of vaccines to prevent disease. The XPrize came out of the gate with a $10 million prize competition designed to lower the risk and cost of going to space by incentivizing the creation of a reliable, reusable, privately-financed, manned spaceship that made private space travel commercially viable.
The crowdsourcing concept can now be applied to any business. The time-tested and broken method for solving a business challenge is for a company to take one of two approaches. First, attack the problem internally by assembling a project team. The second approach is to hire an outside consultant. Each one of these initiatives involves its own set of headaches. In today’s crowdsourcing world, both of these approaches have become obsolete.
A more sensible approach is to crowdsource solutions for your business challenges. There are a variety companies that offer different crowdsourcing solutions. Zintro and Elance offer pools of industry experts, while CrowdRuption offers prize based crowdsourced solutions. The benefits are numerous from crowdsourcing. Most notably is a cost savings. However, working with industry experts as opposed to management consultants provides a real advantage to any organization. In the end, crowdsourced solutions provide a much more robust and better solution than traditional methods.
In the end, Napoleon had his Waterloo. C-Level executives can avoid their Waterloo by breaking traditional business models with crowdsourced solutions.