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| Crowdsourcing to drive the agile workforce

Crowdsourcing-workforceCrowdsourcing-workforceCrowdsourcing-workforce

Crowdsourcing is coming to the enterprise with the advent of flash organizations. Enterprises will have access to thousands of workers, on-demand. So how will CIOs manage the complexity of a virtual workforce that routinely scales up and down?


When you talk about the way that our increasingly agile and liquid workforce will evolve toward the anticipated tech-powered talent marketplace model, there are a number of paths this evolution might take.

The marketplace model, which leverages online platforms and work management solutions, as well as collaborative technologies, is an on-demand approach to getting things done. Proponents see the traditional model, where individuals are hired for a single position and work in fixed business functions, will yield to a marketplace in which people are dynamically teamed, on demand, from project to project, based on their skills, expertise, knowledge, and other relevant talents.

How we get there from here is anyone’s best guess, but some Stanford University researchers have suggested that one way to do it might be to combine the increasingly popular phenomenon of crowdsourcing with on-demand expert talent. They’ve even developed software to help in that combination. They call the end result a “flash organization.”

Essentially, it involves assembling an entire organization from a paid crowdsourcing marketplace in order to aid a company in achieving complex and open-ended goals.

You need the right crowd

But, you may ask, while crowdsourcing may work in something like Wikipedia, can it really work with the sophisticated kind of work that a flash organization would be expected to perform?

Stanford says yes, but that presumes the “crowd” consists of legitimate experts who are up to the task of working on more advanced projects.

Borrowing from traditional crowdsourcing, the workforce in flash organizations is completely virtual and assembled on-demand from massive online labor markets. But, like a traditional business, this workforce of experts is assembled into some form of manageable organizational hierarchy.

Dynamic in many ways

The flash organization model retains the advantages of rapid online hiring but is designed to be much more dynamic than previous forms of crowdsourcing. The downside of traditional crowdsourcing is that the “workforce” tends to be relatively unskilled independent contributors following workflows and goals that have to be well defined from the beginning.

But flash organizations’ expert workforces would be organized in a centralized hierarchy, with a path defined to facilitate collaboration, communication, and decision making. This allows the flexibility of modifying the workforce’s tasks and goals over time as the project proceeds.

The Stanford researchers likened the approach to film crews or emergency response teams, with workforce roles defined by specific expertise, and with the individuals in that workforce capable of hitting the ground running based on knowledge of their roles, even though they lack knowledge of each other.

To support the flash organization model, the researchers built upon a web platform previously designed to manage flash teams, or crowdsourced workforces made up of experts – like flash organizations – but who weren’t part of an organizational hierarchy. Their software model streamlines the creation of the organization and the hiring and manages the task tracking and communication within the group.

It’s not for every task

Stanford’s researchers concede that flash organizations aren’t the answer for every kind of work, and say they still face the same types of problems inherent in other types of online collaborations, such as language barriers and time zone differences. But they are looking to their approach to empower online workers and entrepreneurs to collaborate on complex, open-ended virtual projects.

The approach would allow anyone with a creative idea to go to an online marketplace, shop for the expertise they need, put the team together, and turn their idea into reality in the shortest possible timeframe.

Preparing for change

Getting your organization ready for the new online marketplace involves more than hiring the right people. It will require having the proper tech, tools, and network that can be scaled up (and down) as needed to bring your flash teams together quickly. Read our ebook about how to leverage your carrier to build an agile network for the agile workforce.

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