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Run With a Smart Crowd

Ever get anxious, watching a dog gnaw at a leg wound? Erica Lyn Townsend did. That’s why she invented something to help her pet Buddy. When it got raves on The American Inventor Show, she was inspired to leave her corporate job to make more for other pet lovers.

And those who dote on their dogs are also the kind of people who loaned her start-up money. How? Through Prosper, a site for peer-to-peer borrowing. Perhaps you, too, could jumpstart your dream business with fmicro-loans from prospective customers. Erica’s product? A comfy, waterproof, and lined leg covering or “sleeve” to speed the healing of injuries. It is called Strock. dog in Strock

When a large crowd of professional photographers gathers at one web site, they can lower their prices to you. How? Because, collectively, they can offer more from which to choose (1.3 million images) – and provide extra services to buyers. Thus attract more buzz, a larger crowd of buyers and more spending.

That’s how iStockphoto manages to charge just $1 per image – and get acquired for $50 million. Now Presentation Zen author, Garr Reynolds is enjoying a SmartPartnership with them that any author of a photo-illustrated book would love to have.

Want a quick way to find more movies you’ll like to see at home? Then there’s a good chance you rely on the Netflix algorithm of your past cinematic choices and what people who share your tastes in film have chosen. To improve their recommendation engine, Netflix launched a contest last year. Anyone who improves it by 10% wins a $1 million prize. What do these stories have in common? They are fueled by the power of us. More specifically, they demonstrate that, with the right Rules of Engagement we can do some things better together – as a “crowd” -than apart. Discover other “crowdsourcing” methods and success stories in a just-released book that was, of course, written with input from a crowd of experts.

It’s called We Are Smarter Than Me:  How to Unleash the Power of Crowds in Your Business by Barry Libert, Don Tapscott and Jon Spector. The authors attracted ideas from others via forums, blogs and a wiki. Wikis can be relatively simple and low-cost to set up and easy to use – even by non-geeks like me. See, for example, Wikitravel, Business Rules of Thumb and Gardening.flowerYou can get free wiki hosting and “how to” help. Try using a wiki:

1. To become a magnet for your peers in your profession to help each other stay up-to-date.

2. To facilitate the sharing of ideas and thus the networking and relationship building in your association, club or other membership-based group. Since participation in a wiki fosters online community-building, it will make your annual conference and other face-to-face meetings more meaningful – and probably more fun. In fact it will help you design those meetings to offer the topics, experts and meeting formats that members have shown they want.

To get good ideas for writing a book, article or “how to” tip sheet or booklet for your customers, prospects, members, extended family and friends or other affinity group. Perhaps, you’ll then share your “how-to” at Citizendium and WikiHow – and become more valuable well-known for your collective expertise. Now, don’t let your book or article be forgotten a year after it comes out.

Like Bob Sutton, keep the momentum going and get greater input for your next project. As author, Paula Berinstein notes, “The book is now a place, as much as a thing that somebody reads. It’s a place where the author is more the host, or the maitre d’ in a fancy New York restaurant.” See, for example, Richard Frenay’s Pulse.

Have you collaborated with others to create or promote a product, business, cause or idea?

How did you attract and reward the “crowd” for their involvement?

We’d be delighted if you share your method and success by commenting on this post. Tomorrow we’ll share more successful ways you can be a part of a crowd that works smarter than one can alone.

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