Crowdsourcing: Using the Masses to Solve Problems

On Sunday I read the entire new issue of Wired, and found many fascinating ideas to ponder. One was Crowdsourcing, a new trend that uses the masses to achieve what was once only done by professionals.

In corporate R&D, for example, Procter and Gamble employ more than 9000 scientists and researchers and still have many problems they can’t solve. They now post these thorny sticky wickets on a website called InnoCentive, offering large cash rewards to more than 90,000 ‘solvers’ who make up this network of backyard scientists.

One of them is Ed Melcarek, who won a $25,000 reward for helping Colgate-Palmolive inject flouride powder into a toothpaste tube without dispersing it into the surrounding air. Melcarek simply imparted an electric charge to the powder while grounding the tube, drawing the flouride particles to the tube without dispersion. It was as physics solution that never occurred to the ‘test tube guys.’

So far more than 30% of the problems posted on the site have been cracked, “which is 30 percent more than would have been solved using a traditional inhouse approach,” said Jill Panetta, InnoCentive’s chief scientific officer.