CBS debuted a new show Sunday night called “Wisdom of the Crowd.” It’s about a tech CEO, played by Jeremy Piven, who builds a crowdsourcing platform to help find his daughter’s killer.
Sophia, as the platform is named, is essentially a network of solvers who can contribute information to help find Mia Tanner’s real killer, not unlike IdeaBuzz.com, minus the murder part. Ostensibly, Sophia then wades through the noise to find the tips of value.
As an Innovation Strategist at a company that also built a platform that specializes in crowdsourcing, I found the show’s premise intriguing. Not in a good way, though. I saw it as an opportunity to stretch out the ol’ snark muscles and really rip into it. While it did have its share of ridiculousness, it had a few surprising parallels to the work we do every day. I picked a few of my favorite parts from the show and connected them to our reality.
WISDOM OF THE CROWD: A few minutes into the show, Tanner (no word on whether there’s any relation to the other famous San Francisco Tanner family) used the Parable of the Ox to explain crowdsourcing to the doubting Detective Cavanaugh: “100 years ago, there was a scientist, Sir Francis Galton. He went to a county fair. He asked 800 people to guess the weight of a prize-winning ox. No one could get it exactly right. But then, when he averaged in all of the answers, they were dead on, within a half a pound. That’s what it does.”
REALITY: OK, yes, we use that story all the time.
WOTC: “Crowdsourcing is sifting through the dirt until you find the gold. 90% of anything is garbage, but 10% of everything, that’s a helluva lot of bling.”
REALITY: I get the idea, but it’s a bit extreme compared to the reality. Crowdsourcing and open innovation aren’t famine or feast. There’s a lot of room between dirt and gold.
WOTC: They were hacked like a day after releasing the platform, then they guy who hacked them literally came to their front door to introduce himself.
REALITY: That’s definitely how it works.
WOTC: Their Head of Engineering is a dreamy Brit.
REALITY: No, but our Head of Product is.
WOTC: Tanner offers $100,000,000 “to anyone that can help identify or apprehend the killer of my daughter.”
REALITY: Well, yes, incentivization is an important part of any crowdsourcing effort. However, when it’s financial, which isn’t always the case, it typically has way fewer zeros than Tanner’s bounty. Oftentimes, it’s not money at all; it’s lunch with the boss, recognition in communications materials or a banquet, or even some extra time off. For more tips on incentivization with shallower pockets than Tanner’s, check out our resource on creative, non-monetary awards.
WOTC: While it didn’t happen on the pilot, they’re probably going to find and convict the real killer.
REALITY: While we feel what IdeaScale and IdeaBuzz do is pretty sexy — finding ways to repurpose recycled glass, helping cure cancer, and helping accelerate more energy-efficient technology to market — it isn’t TV sexy, solving-murder sexy, CBS Sunday Night sexy. As Tanner put it, “People want to be a part of something meaningful.”