Representatives of Carnegie Mellon University, Stevens Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Northwestern University, University of Texas at Austin and oDesk, publishing “The Future of Crowd Work” in the earlier 2013, ask: “Can we foresee a future crowd workplace in which we would want our children to participate?”. Even though different perceptions among readers with or without children could emerge, the goal of opening up to a more conscious way of designing organizations is obvious, hoping to create a better work place, not just because we want or dream of it, but because we might actually need it.
Technology is paving the way for strong change, affecting the way people behave and think across the globe. While traditional organizations are trying to preserve their identity and address resources to their own goals, shaping knowledge, attitudes and experiences, new organisations based on a much more decentralised collaborative approach are catching up with these new crowd workplaces and interactive trends. New 4D printers have been already prototyped, while 3D printers are entering our houses; new business and organizational forms need designers to properly make such concepts understood. While newly graduate students are discovering technologies shaping the world new realities are becoming accessible through an immediate visualization of information, which reduces the need to deal with dull activities.
Most of the recent books published by Harvard Business Review label the present society as “Knowledge Society”, differing from the K. Marx's historical label of “Information Society”, while some others attempt to say that we have already moved to a new age of “Innovation Society”.
Two of the most populated areas in the world (India and Africa) are struggling in solving relevant problems, while on the other side of the ocean (United States) there is a growing number of initiatives aimed to provide free and open education.
Free information and openness can easily originate discussions about political and legal issues: in spite of creating value to a minority, it would be possible to release information likely to help solve important issues and build up new products or services, scale knowledge and open new opportunities.
Interaction and collaboration are becoming new paradigms in the present business world but, even if they are valuable principles for the society, they appear to be more challenging than keeping the focus on privacy and competition: crowdsourcing can cope with this issue, facilitate the progress and make us wonder: “Are we ready to give what we expect to receive?".
The crowdsourcing idea looked like the solution to many financial issues which started to arise before the beginning of the 21th century financial crisis, as well as mercantilism was the 17th century answer to feudalism; free-market capitalism signed off by A. Smith was the 18th century answer to mercantilism; welfare state capitalism discussed by O.V. Bismarck was the 19th century answer to monopolistic capitalism created over the years; financial capitalism fed by financial corporations was the 20th century answer to the so called state capitalism.
An interesting crowdsourcing example comes from Wikipedia. Here follows an excerpt: “According to some historians, the modern capitalist system has its origin in the "crisis of the fourteenth century," a conflict between the land-owning aristocracy and the agricultural producers, the serfs. Manorial arrangements inhibited the development of capitalism in a number of ways. Because serfs were forced to produce for lords, they had no interest in technological innovation; because serfs produced to sustain their own families, they had no interest in co-operating with one another. Because lords owned the land, they relied on force to guarantee that they were provided with sufficient food. Because lords were not producing to sell on the market, there was no competitive pressure for them to innovate. Finally, because lords expanded their power and wealth through military means, they spent their wealth on military equipment or on conspicuous consumption that helped foster alliances with other lords; they had no incentive to invest in developing new productive technologies".
Even if related to the 14th century, this story sounds quite contemporary if lords and serfs are replaced by financial capitalists and workers. As a matter of fact the 20th century innovation came from a strong development of tech companies and from risk taken by a few venture capitalists.
The relatively new crowdsourcing model seems to follow the trend outlined above, empowering the bottom line of the society, providing individual opportunities and breaking down the information, technology and assets. The recent crowdsourcing interest is strongly affecting the society and emphasizes the role of social values and shared value creation. Husty initiatives might neglect those last concepts, but they are setting the ground for further research and new business models. It can be argued that most of the concept is linked to the established word crowding, meaning grouping people together, but it has been differently used in the Economy through the concepts of crowding-in and crowding-out, as leverage on crowd's resources, particularly during crisis situations, instead of its original meaning, where, probably, the real value still resides.
The subject of the crowd is clear: people. Persons who are called to bring in their personal efforts, contributing to create value through solving a particular issue. The purposes can vary from a social to a more profitable meaning, but the reward can hardly be identified upfront, when the decision to participate is taken as the risk of wasting time and, consequently, resources. People form networks, communities and organizations, exposing themselves to external and uncertain dynamics created by human interactions, where everyone's traits and emotions become central to the value creation process. Participating is the first step to directly observe the proper human nature expressing itself through particular fears, passions, beliefs, awareness, self-confidence or, simply, self-motivation. Each of us can perceive how our personal and professional lives would improve thanks to a better knowledge of ourselves. Many aspects of human behaviors stay unexplained, however our sensibility and intelligence can respectively enable us to stick to the values we believe in and overcome the issues we come across.
A closer and more direct question can now turn to be expressed as such as: “Is our value creation harnessed better by self-motivation, or commitment to work?”. Answering to this question is challenging and it probably requires to go through some unexplored reasoning, until what we believe in and wish for falls into a better clarification. Self-motivation is the driver addressing our actions, making us learn how to create better value for our community. Many studies would argue that commitment is essential for an on-going growth. We are yet to discover the nuances between the two, self-motivation or commitment, which concepts, working styles and ways of life enable us to maximise our efforts by sharing knowledge and creating value for the improvement of our society, but are our actions able to shape the environment we will live in and how about creating a field, where a call for solutions meets the collaboration of self-motivated business professionals?
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