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Home X-Culture Stories Professional consultants or Crowd-sourcing?

Professional consultants or Crowd-sourcing?

June 27th, 2017, by

Experts wrote the Encyclopedia Britannica, and it ruled for 250 years. Then amateurs wrote Wikipedia.

I was recently asked to talk about when it is better to hire an expert, and when it is better to crowd-source the task. Here is what I have to say about that:

There will be always a place for professional business consultants. Yes, their fees are often unjustifiably high. But if you need help with a standard task that requires a particular kind of training and experience, such as preparing your company for an IPO or managing a merger or acquisition, professional consultants may be your best bet.

However, on some tasks crowds consistently outperform experts, while costing much less. Research shows, crowds are particularly good at:


Crowd-labor: The simplest and most popular crowd-sourcing model. Works best with simple projects that require the same operation repeated many times, especially when a fresh set of eyes is helpful (different people, in different locations, with different sets of knowledge, completing the same task but each focusing on different aspects of the problem).


Crowd-prediction: Also known as “crowd-averaging” or “crowd-voting”, this classic model relies on the proverbial “wisdom of crowds.” Each individual member of the crowd may not know the exact answer, but the majority vote or the crowd’s average prediction tends to be remarkably accurate, be it guessing the number of candies in a jar or predicting the results of an election.


Crowd-creation: A clever solution, an innovative design, a viral marketing gimmick – it’s all about creative ideas. There is a limit to how many new ideas is the most creative thinkers can generate. But when you have a huge diverse crowd, you have a virtually unlimited pool of new ideas. You can use professionals later to polish the best solution, but the crowd beats experts at generating the best initial ideas.


Crowd-outreach: Using a crowd to solve your problem is like sending thousands of ants to search for food. If there is something edible out there, one of them will stumble upon it. Serendipity is what makes crowd-sourcing successful. No one in the crowd is a genius who can solve any problem. It is all about finding the right person for solving your particular problem. If the crowd is large enough, someone is bound to know that little thing that leads to a genius solution or a business deal. This same person may not solve a different problem equally well, but knows something or someone uniquely instrumental for solving your particular problem, something or someone you don’t know and would have never come up with this genius solution on your own.


Crowd-funding: It’s a special case of crowd-sourcing. You ask the crowd not to solve your challenge, but to fund your idea. The crowd may simply give you the money if they support your cause, or invest in your startup for a share of your future profits. However, the most interesting part here is not the money, but how the crowd decides to allocate it. Projects that attract a large crowd willing to fund them tend to be very successful. If the crowd thinks you have an idea worthy an investment, it is likely a good idea. On the other hand, if the crowd, in its wisdom, ignores your call for funding, maybe you should look for a new idea.

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How the X-Culture Crowd is different from other crowds?

There are many crowd-sourcing platforms out there. But X-Culture is different.

With a few exceptions (e.g., The Netflix Prize, MATLAB Programming Contest), almost all crowd-sourcing platforms do not provide their crowd members with opportunities to interact.

Thus, the best solution you get is the solution developed by the smartest member of the crowd. It’s usually better than a solution you could have developed on your own, but not good enough for us.

X-Culture does things differently.

We experiment with various crowd management models that allow crowd members to exchange ideas, learn from one another, build upon one another’s ideas.

This way, the final solution is better than any single member of the crowd could have ever developed on his or her own. This collaborative competition results in solution that even the smartest member of the crown would have not developed working individually.


Watch this TEDx Talk on our experiments with crowd-sourcing models and their roles in the future the business consulting industry.


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