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Sunday 26 February 2017

Using crowd-sourcing to create organisational change

Wed, 10 Apr 2013 | Sarah Lewis, chartered psychologist
Sarah Jones
Barack Obama famously crowd-sourced the finance for his election campaign - a powerful example of the ability of new technology to create a great aggregate result out of lots of small voluntary actions.

But crowd sourcing really refers to the age-old process of recruiting groups to complete tasks that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for one person to complete alone.

This is particularly pertinent within organisations that want to change their culture or staff behaviour. By crowd-sourcing the change, rather than trying to ‘encourage’ it, the process can be faster, easier and less traumatic for all concerned. 

Wikipedia defines crowd-sourcing as ‘a process that involves outsourcing tasks to a distributed group of people. This process can occur both online and But importantly, crowd-sourcing occurs when people are not compelled to do the tasks by a job contract, but volunteer to be part of an organisational project.

-   Voluntary attendance
Ideally people are invited to attend an Appreciative Inquiry event.  Appreciative Inquiry is the idea that organisational growth and development can stem from understanding and building on past successes, as well as on understanding and solving problems. 

 - Voluntary participation
The voluntarism principle needs to extend to participation in any and every particular activity or discussion that is planned for the day.

- Wisdom of the crowd
According to Wikipedia: ‘Wisdom of the crowd is another type of crowd-sourcing that collects large amounts of information and aggregates it to gain a complete and accurate picture of a topic, based on the idea that a group of people is often more intelligent than an individual.’

Calling on collective intelligence is a key feature of large group processes. However, people are free to chose whether and what to contribute; so the event needs to create an atmosphere where people feel safe and trusting and so desire to share information and dreams and to build connections and intimacy. Of course, sometimes expert knowledge is more valuable and accurate than ‘the general view’.

- Further voluntary action
With most Appreciative Inquiry based events, at some point there is a shift from the process in the day to actions in the future. Often this involves forming project or work groups to progress activity. The groups need members, but again group membership needs to be voluntary.

The desire to contribute to changing things for the future needs to stem from the motivation and community built during the day, rather than forcing everyone to sign up to a post-event group activity.

By using Appreciative Inquiry in this way you are essentially creating a form of in-house crowd-sourcing around the challenges of organisational change or adaptation.

In addition, participants may volunteer to be part of specific groups working on specific projects, above and beyond their job description.

The ideal outcome of an Appreciative Inquiry event is that everyone is motivated to make small changes in their own behaviour on a day to day basis that will aggregate to a bigger shift, and even transformation within the organisation as a whole.
Just like Obama’s fundraising, where lots of small donations lead to a large campaign

Crowd-sourcing is a great way to get big things to happen with a small amount of effort from many people – and Appreciative Inquiry is a great way of bringing this into your organisation.

Sarah Lewis is author of ‘Appreciative Inquiry for Change Management’ and ‘Positive Psychology at Work'.