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Crowdsourcing – leveraging the masses to produce innovation – is arguably the biggest current trend in the innovation industry.

The phenomenon started to appear a while back, under the guise of terms like ‘Open Innovation’ and The Cult of the Amateur, and the underlying theoretical reasons why the crowd can sometimes outperform experts was described in James Surowiecki’s readworthy book The Wisdom of Crowds (see my review).

Currently, crowdsourcing is the central idea underlying a bevy of new innovation-oriented books, such as Here Comes Everybody (Clay Shirky), Wikinomics (Don Tapscott) and Crowdsourcing by Jeff Howe (who named the phenomenon in a Wired article).

To get a quick feel for what it is all about, check out the two following videos:

 Jeff Howe talks about crowdsourcing

Clay Shirky’s TED lecture (20 minutes, but worth it)

It is interesting to see how the field of innovation is itself subject to trends; currently, you would have to be a brave innovation guru to give a lecture without talking about crowdsourcing. And as with any new trend, there is a tendency to herald crowdsourcing as the answer to everything. There is little doubt that it is an important phenomenon, but it is far from the only thing you have to understand in order to master innovation.

Another noteworthy trend, by the way, is that of quantitative analysis, described in Ian Ayres’ book Supercrunchers (my review here).