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Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business [Kindle Edition]

Jeff Howe
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)

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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

“The amount of knowledge and talent dispersed among the human race has always outstripped our capacity to harness it. Crowdsourcing ­corrects that—but in doing so, it also unleashes the forces of creative destruction.”
—From Crowdsourcing

First identified by journalist Jeff Howe in a June 2006 Wired article, “crowdsourcing” describes the process by which the power of the many can be leveraged to accomplish feats that were once the province of the specialized few. Howe reveals that the crowd is more than wise—it’s talented, creative, and stunningly productive. Crowdsourcing activates the transformative power of today’s technology, liberating the latent potential within us all. It’s a perfect meritocracy, where age, gender, race, education, and job history no longer matter; the quality of work is all that counts; and every field is open to people of every imaginable background. If you can perform the service, design the product, or solve the problem, you’ve got the job.

But crowdsourcing has also triggered a dramatic shift in the way work is organized, talent is employed, research is conducted, and products are made and marketed. As the crowd comes to supplant traditional forms of labor, pain and disruption are inevitable.

Jeff Howe delves into both the positive and negative consequences of this intriguing phenomenon. Through extensive reporting from the front lines of this revolution, he employs a brilliant array of stories to look at the economic, cultural, business, and political implications of crowdsourcing. How were a bunch of part-time dabblers in finance able to help an investment company consistently beat the market? Why does Procter & Gamble repeatedly call on enthusiastic amateurs to solve scientific and technical challenges? How can companies as diverse as iStockphoto and Threadless employ just a handful of people, yet generate millions of dollars in revenue every year? The answers lie within these pages.

The blueprint for crowdsourcing originated from a handful of computer programmers who showed that a community of like-minded peers could create better products than a corporate behemoth like Microsoft. Jeff Howe tracks the amazing migration of this new model of production, showing the potential of the Internet to create human networks that can divvy up and make quick work of otherwise overwhelming tasks. One of the most intriguing ideas of Crowdsourcing is that the knowledge to solve intractable problems—a cure for cancer, for instance—may already exist within the warp and weave of this infinite and, as yet, largely untapped resource. But first, Howe proposes, we need to banish preconceived notions of how such problems are solved.

The very concept of crowdsourcing stands at odds with centuries of practice. Yet, for the digital natives soon to enter the workforce, the technologies and principles behind crowdsourcing are perfectly intuitive. This generation collaborates, shares, remixes, and creates with a fluency and ease the rest of us can hardly understand. Crowdsourcing, just now starting to emerge, will in a short time simply be the way things are done.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews


"An informed and enthusiastic guide to the new collaborative creativity."
Times (London)

"A welcome and well-written corporate playbook for confusing times."

"An engaging mix of business, sociology, organizational theory, and technology writing and fits the mold of Malcolm Gladwell’s perennial bestseller, The Tipping Point."

“While small groups have often been the foundation of great performance—think SWAT teams and Skunk Works—Jeff Howe has made the compelling case for the power of far larger communities of interest. He shows in Crowdsourcing—with rich illustrations from Google and InnoCentive to Threadless and Wikipedia—that the right community with the right incentives can often invent, write, and run research and business initiatives more effectively and less expensively than traditional enterprise.”
—Michael Useem, professor of management and director of the Leadership Center at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and author of The Go Point: When It’s Time to Decide and The Leadership Moment

“Beyond the wisdom of crowds is the work of crowds, a powerful and transformative source of creativity and an economic engine that defies traditional rules. Jeff Howe’s guide to crowdsourcing—to use his perfect coinage—is insightful, fun, and indispensable to those who want to understand, or participate in, this amazing phenomenon.”
—Steven Levy, author of Hackers and The Perfect Thing

“Jeff Howe has captured a complex and vital change in the business landscape: in the next few years, your customers could become your collaborators, or your competitors. His ability to weave story and strategy together makes Crowdsourcing a readable and indispensable guide to this new world.&...

About the Author

JEFF HOWE is a contributing editor at Wired magazine, where he covers the entertainment industry among other subjects. Before coming to Wired he was a senior editor at and a writer at the Village Voice. In his fifteen years as a journalist, he has traveled around the world working on stories ranging from the impending water crisis in Central Asia to the implications of gene patenting. He has also written for U.S. News & World Report, Time magazine, the Washington Post, Mother Jones, and numerous other publications. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and children.

Product Details

  • File Size: 525 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; 1 edition (August 26, 2008)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001BAJ2LQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #259,493 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Every significant trend requires a book that defines its key concepts, pioneers and rational. Crowdsourcing is that book for the application of social and community capability to business and society. Jeff Howe has created a readable chronicle of the early adopters who use crowds to replace experts. Coupled with James Surowieck's "Wisdom of Crowds" the two books will be used in corporate offices and marketing teams to look at how to engage crowds in the future.

Executives, marketing professionals, and product managers should read both books to better understand how to tap into this resource. However, do not expect a recipe book, specific solutions, or a road map to crowdsourcing.

Readers will find the book very descriptive and illustrative, which is strength, but its analysis and recommendations are a weakness and hence the reason for a four star review. I still highly recommend this book, but recognize that it comes from a journalistic tradition, rather than a hard core business book. Given the subject matter, I believe that the journalistic approach is more fitting to the subject.

This book is recommended to gain an understanding of this phenomenon, pick up examples and stories, and gain a new vocabulary. Strategists, executives, and marketing types will find examples that they will need to think about in order to gain the answers they are looking for and need.


The book focuses on describing how to crowds are creating new sources of value than the specific ways to tap into that value. Chapters 1 through 5, the first half of the book, concentrates on providing examples of the crowd sourcing phenomenon. The second half focuses down on the impact of crowds to economic and business organization.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
If you have been paying close attention to the subject of crowd sourcing, this book will contain few surprises. But you just might pick up an insight or two that will make the book of much value. That was my experience.

While much of the book covered things I know in more detail than Jeff Howe describes, I began to see connections between how one aspect of crowd sourcing could be combined with other aspects to make more progress more rapidly. I intend to apply those insights into my global project for increasing the rate of global improvements by 20 times.

Ultimately, crowd sourcing's significance is determined in the battle between the tendency of crowds to contain wisdom and the average results of crowds to be lousy. If you use crowd sourcing to get lots of ideas, you also need to rely a lot on crowd sourcing to get rid of the junk.

Although Mr. Howe claims to be taking a journalist's approach to the subject, he comes across as more of an advocate than an observer. In particular, he fails to capture the ways that prolific production of content can overwhelm the accuracy of crowd sourcing votes. Highly ranked contributions often reflect popularity and the crowd's agreement with the conclusions more than the quality of the production. As a result, you can often end up with something that looks like what a lot of undisciplined teenagers would produce.

Yet, even that problem can be solved by adding a layer of expert evaluation to the more popular entries. He mentions that point in passing, but misses its significance.

For a book that aims to describe the fundamentals of how crowd sourcing will be used by business, the conclusion section is pretty limited and abstract.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 40-hour week leaves time for meaningful work November 8, 2010
Although the author doesn't specifically address the 40-hour work week, he does deal with a range of results from that fact. He talks about how people's hobbies are increasingly allowing them to contribute significantly en masse to major projects -- like Linux, a collectively developed free software or uploading thousands of bird sitings to help onithologists track bird migrations. The author talks about the incredible power of the masses in contributing to major developments and notes that the "over education of the middle class" and increasing levels of job dissatisfaction are the cause.

He definitely got some of these elements right, but I think sociologically speaking the meaning of job has changed. After the great depression, a great job was one that fed the family -- assembly line work at an auto manufacturing plant would be an ideal job under that description. However, more recently, employees want more personally engaging, intellectually stimulately jobs which provide creativity outlets for them. Thus, jobs at Google and similar companies that encourage and permit time for employee creativity are more valued. Moreover, companies are beginning to see that sometimes it pays to give employees more latitude.

However, not everyone can work at such places and those who don't have a naturally engaging job look for alternatives for "meaningful work" as the author calls the Pro-Am -- a new term, spelled out the professional amateur, which means amateurs who work at a professional level.

Karl Marx saw humans as naturally creative; I think that's true. And he saw the labor of the the 1800s as demeaning this naturally creative nature, which might also have been true.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Did not like the book. Too much unnecessary examples, and it became repetitive.
Published 28 days ago by Thomas
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, although slightly outdated.
This book, authored by the man who coined the term "crowdsourcing," was written at a time when online crowdsourcing was still in its infancy. Read more
Published 12 months ago by My wife won't let me pick a name.
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it
After reading " what would Google Do", I decided to read this as well. Really informative and interesting. Read more
Published 18 months ago by R. Mandel
2.0 out of 5 stars Great topic... poor delivery
Crowdsourcing by Jeff Howe was an interesting read for the most part. He takes the same approach to explaining a topic in a way that assumes he is making great connections for the... Read more
Published on December 15, 2012 by twiygul
3.0 out of 5 stars Crowdsourcing
The information in this book is interesting -makes for great dinnertime conversation. Unfortunately the author does not write well. Read more
Published on May 16, 2011 by Skelter
5.0 out of 5 stars As prescient as was Toffler's Future Shock in ITS day
As prescient as was Toffler's Future Shock (and later The Third Wave), this new work from Howe offers clear indications of the many way(s) in which current trends in the use of the... Read more
Published on February 6, 2011 by Anthony R. Dickinson
5.0 out of 5 stars Will Change Your Perspective on Conventional Business Strategy
A must read for anyone working in the business world today. Howe challenges the conventional approaches towards organizational structure, product development and professional... Read more
Published on May 8, 2010 by Steve Keifer
4.0 out of 5 stars Paradigm Expanding
Stimulating collection of anecdotes regarding emerging phenomenon of consumer-led product creation and content selection. Read more
Published on May 7, 2010 by Cliff Clive
3.0 out of 5 stars Howe's exuberance has some merit but is ultimately a little misguided
"No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else," quips Bill Joy, a Sun Microsystems co-founder. Read more
Published on April 11, 2010 by Jay P
3.0 out of 5 stars A few good case studies explaning the concept in a repetitive text
This is a fine book if it is your first book on the concept of 'crowdsourcing'. It details a few case studies where crowdsourced companies and projects took the established and... Read more
Published on March 30, 2010 by Emre Sevinc
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