The list of problems that need to be solved is growing almost as fast as our solutions are. Some are concerned about the lack of food and water security, others worry about access to education and a whopping 45.2% of millennials think today’s most pressing problem is the destruction of natural resources. But with the proliferation of problems, organizations and enterprises are broadening their search for innovative solutions and many of them are looking to the crowd for ideas.

The reason that crowdsourcing is one of our most valuable resources when solving these large-scale problems is that it offers a few advantages that aren’t offered by traditional R&D (especially when solving global issues). Here are some of the advantages of crowdsourcing innovation solutions:

Crowdsourcing helps companies work through a rapid design process:

Because you’re getting feedback from multiple sources in real-time, it is almost like running multiple agile processes concurrently.

Crowdsourcing happens at a fraction of the cost as other forms of research & development:

The crowd can often substitute for costly market research programs or consulting strategies. It also gets solutions to market faster which not only saves on cost, but can increase profit margins.

Maximizing the talent pool:

Once an organization makes their discovery process open, they suddenly maximize their access to a largely unlimited talent pool. The crowd also has an exponentially more multivariate skill set that they bring to bear on problem solving. Imagine if the folks who were developing your new software analytics program also had a marketing background, expertise in philosophy, market research, a passion for theater… and everything else on the planet. You’re bringing so many viewpoints to bear on a problem that the solutions are also richer.

Working for a 40% reduction in new HIV/AIDS infections among adolescent girls.

You can learn more about other ways that crowdsourcing creates business value here, but here’s a real-world example of crowdsourcing for the global good:

One group that is looking to solve an enormous problem set is the DREAMS challenge. DREAMS is an ambitious $385 million partnership between the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Girl Effect, Johnson & Johnson, Gilead Sciences, and ViiV Healthcare, who are all working together to achieve a 40% reduction in new HIV/AIDS infections among adolescent girls and young women in the highest burdened countries by the end of 2017.

In order to complement DREAMS, an Innovation Challenge was launched to build upon existing approaches to better meet the holistic needs of girls and women in Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. By the conclusion of the challenge, the team had sourced 56 new solutions that might have otherwise remained undiscovered.

To learn more about the DREAMS challenge, read the full case study here. What global challenges do you think the crowd should address next?

By Rob Hoehn

About the author

Rob Hoehn is the co-founder and CEO of IdeaScale: the largest open innovation software platform in the world. Hoehn launched crowdsourcing software as part of the open government initiative and IdeaScale’s robust portfolio now includes many other industry notables, such as EA Sports, NBC, NASA, Xerox and many others. Prior to IdeaScale, Hoehn was Vice President of Client Services at Survey Analytics.

Featured image via Yayimages.