March 19, 2010

A use for crowd sourcing

Take a moment to pop over to Luther College's library and information services blog and read their description of what is essentially a focused, online suggestion box.

This little college in the middle of no-where gets it. Social media is not the enemy of academia unless we make it so. Maybe they understand the future roaring down on us because they must reach out and intentionally use communication tools to connect with the larger world. As I well remember from summers in Le Sueur, MN, you appreciate communication when it is a break from isolation. But for whatever reason, they are leading in directions we should consider adopting.

So why is this little crowd sourcing tool use so cool?

1) It is virtually (pun intended) any time any where place to jot down creative ideas to a problem. Rather than wait for one meeting a year where we frantically brainstorm and vote, this service allows people to record their creative ideas soon after they have them, whenever they have them. And as anyone who works on creativity in business (and yes, a university is a business) knows, people are creative thinkers at the strangest times. In the shower, upon waking up, when they go to sleep, when they exercise, etc. This sort of tool allows them to be creative 365 days a year instead of one. Think of the great ideas that could be captured in volume!

2) It is open to the stakeholders as well as the providers. If there is one thing that the U is very bad at, it is including the people who are affected by decisions in making them. Crowd sourcing would not only get new ideas from them but also allow them to vote on the ideas that would affect them most. This gives the service providers some idea of what to tackle first or where to invest the most effort and resources. While we often think we know what the biggest problems are, we are often wrong. Or we overlook the little nagging things that don't seem to be important (like dripping pipes) but that add up over time.

3) It puts this information in one place. Right now, we have no single place (at least at UMD) for feedback and suggestions that relate to computing services. Depending upon who you know, you might email the Director or call the Help Desk. Or talk to your friendly neighborhood tech -- centralized or college-based. But these ideas get scattered across numerous departments and lodged in the memory of many people ... most of whom are not allowed to attend strategic planning meetings because that's above their pay scale.

I've suggested centralized systems in the past without success. It would cross too many boundaries and threaten power silos, I suspect. But there are places where these emerging tools are being used successfully to get work ... and yest teaching and learning .... done. Like fire --- they can be threatening, but they could help us do our jobs too.

Posted by bjohnson at March 19, 2010 7:05 AM