I view crowdsourcing as a type of communication between and across your collaborative partner network.  As such it is important to select topics that are of interest to a wide variety of your partners to encourage participation.  These topics should focus on the business problems, networking improvements and then also a healthy dose of business and efficiency improvements.  These topics should be of interest to the broadest range of participants and in order to be of interest the participants must see an opportunity of benefit realized by participation.

The million dollar question though is how do you maintain a steady stream of topics that draw interest to the widest range of partners?  The only way to be successful in this effort is to engage your partners to bring their own topics to the group.  I think of it this way, crowdsourcing is analogous to a cocktail party where there are a wide variety of conversations taking place across and among the participants.  Some of these conversations involve one or two parties and some of these conversations involve six or ten participants.  All of these conversations are of interest to the participants and by the same token, all of these conversations won’t be of interest to everyone single person attending the party.

How is crowdsourcing the same type of activity?  Well, first of all you will have a wide variety of active topics at any one time.  This is important because this will engage the widest variety of participants.  Crowdsourcing is a social activity, in the same manner as Facebook or Google+, and in these types of social activities the number of participants is important to develop the most robust network and by the same token more valuable to the participants.  Crowdsourcing in this case is focused on business or professional type of social networking, it is social network though at its heart.  The secret to the success and benefits of the crowdsourcing practice is to generate a vast variety of  topics and then let your network participants identify the winners from the losers.

One of the most valuable features of crowdsourcing is also one of its most difficult to embrace, that is the fact that everyone is equal in this type of social network and in order to achieve the greatest benefit all partners must participate and in order for all partners to participate they must realize some benefits from their participation.  This must be a two way activity that all partners realize benefits and this means that sometimes you will not realize direct benefits from participation in every topic.  You must though participate in crowdsourcing as you would any other network activity and remember that you must make a deposit before you can make a withdrawal.  Crowdsourcing is the great equalizer across the large and the small and no one topic will generate interest just because a large and powerful participant presents the topic.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

How do you incorporate the different methods of communication to support your collaborative network needs and objectives?  Do you have a formal maintenance communication plan that your partners have participated in developing?  How does the informal communications methods impact and support the formal communications?  Have you developed an evaluation plan for your communications methods, a type of continuous improvement process for your communication methods and communications plans?