I wrote this as a comment to a DachisGroup posting on the topic.
I think the one application of crowdsourcing that is most overlooked is one which hardly fits the definition. This type is not premeditated. It is the type where the “machine” is a means to an end, and it does not originate at the organization. In fact, the organization is the target of this type of crowdsourcing—Social-CRM.
Most definitions of crowdsourcing include the notion of a call going out to a group of individuals who are then gathered via the call to solve a complex problem, acting like a shared problem solving methodology, much like the theory of Law of Large Numbers.
The crowd is likely to have an upper limit in terms of the number of members. By default, traditional crowdsourcing is fashioned to work from the top down; it is outbound, a push model.
Social-CRM (S-CRM) tends to work from the bottom up. There are no boundaries to the number of members; in fact, there can be thousands of members. Also atypical is the fact with S-CRM no single event or call to action drives the formation of the crowd. The crowd can have as many events as it has members.
The unifying force around S-CRM is each member’s perspective of a given firm or organization. Members are often knitted together by having felt wronged or put-off by an action, product, or service provided or not provided by said organization. Most organizations do not listen to, nor do they have a means by which they can communicate with the S-CRM crowdsource. This in turn causes the membership to grow, and to become even more steadfast in the individual missions of their members.
In traditional crowdsourcing, once the problem solving ends, the crowd no longer has a reason to exist, and it disbands. With S-CRM crowdsourcing, since the problem never seems to go away, neither does the crowd.
Every firm has one or more S-CRM groups biting at its ankles, hurting its image, hurting the brand, causing customers to flee, and disrupting the business model. Even so, most organizations ignore the S-CRM crowd just like someone ignores their crazy Uncle Pete who disrupts every family gathering.