“When asked what couldn’t be crowdsourced, I used to answer: a restaurant.
Then one day a Washington Post reporter called to ask me what I thought about a new
–you guessed it–crowdsourced restaurant. My answer to that question these days?
Everything can be crowdsourced. I figure it’s best to play it safe.”
-Jeff Howe, author, professor of journalism at Northeastern University

Sometimes there is a huge payoff when I do something that propels me out of my comfort zone. You might interpret this act as taking a huge risk, like jumping out of a plane, walking a high wire or telling your boss that he, or she, is wrong. In my case, it was playing a game.
Let me explain. I really loathe games like Charades or Trivia. Despite my training in acting, I have a huge fear of making a fool out of myself. As for Trivia, well, how do I put this? In spite of my experience as a business speaker and feeling relaxed while addressing an audience, in a Trivia game, I feel a bit of fear. I imagine that I don’t have anything to contribute. This goes back to my childhood, dyslexia and – let’s not go there.
So, on a recent 21-day cruise through the fjords of Norway, my wife and I were asked to join one of eight Trivia teams, composed of approximately ten people each. It was explained that – with our backgrounds – we would make an excellent addition to the team. The teams met on sea days at noon in one of the lounges. There, each team would pool their collective knowledge in the hopes of becoming the winning team at the completion of the cruise.
Of course, given my perspective, I immediately said “No, thanks,” while my wife, with great enthusiasm, agreed to participate. As life works with relationships, I pushed past my resistance and reluctantly also agreed to join in. Throughout the first game, I watched in utter amazement as people responded with openness and joy to the questions presented by the social director. Contributing absolutely nothing, I sat back and observed the delight and positive energy that everyone contributed to the game.
The next day, in spite of myself, I got into the flow of the process and even made a couple of unique suggestions. The bottom line is: at the end of the cruise, our team won.
It was only later that I realized how my experience of playing Trivia is the perfect example of crowdsourcing. The basic principle behind crowdsourcing is: the more people with unique points of view working on a project, the better and faster and more varied the results.
The use of crowdsourcing for businesses, organizations and groups of all kinds has become immensely popular over the past few years. The concept of tapping in to the wisdom of the crowd has been used in many forms. All crowdsourcing involves assigning tasks to a group of people who collaborate – and all are unique, depending on the needs of the client company.
Journalist Adam Penenberg, in his 2011 Fast Company article – This Column Was Crowdsourced by Servio – writes “The term ‘crowdsourcing,’ or using collective intelligence to complete a project, was coined by Jeff Howe in a 2006 Wired magazine article. Crowdsourcing allows a large task can be completed in a few hours, or even a few minutes, because numerous people can work simultaneously on individual portions.”
One example of crowdsourcing, which I have used for creating both my company logo and the cover of a new CD program, is a source called 99designs. Here is how it worked. I submitted a request for a logo and gave my budget. Graphic designers throughout the world presented their designs to me on-line. I narrowed more than 40 designs submissions down to the top seven. Then I submitted those seven designs to a crowd of friends and acquaintances, asking them to vote for their favorite.
Crowdsourcing is only limited by the imagination and has been successfully used to raise funds, increase product sales, enhance customer service and more. Here are just a few examples:
Kickstarter is one of the hottest ways for creative entrepreneurs, like film directors, writers and musicians, to finance their projects. Two of my friends have recently raised funds for financing their films. In their case, the crowd donates money, for either a much hoped for monetary return on the project, an on-screen acknowledgement or simply a hearty, “Thank you.”
Indiegogo is an international crowdsourcing site where anyone can raise money for film, music, art, charity, small businesses, gaming, theater, and more. My brother-in-law is currently using it to fund the movie version of Napoleon Hill’s book “Think and Grow Rich.”
Crowdfunding websites like SciFlies are helping scientists raise money for their projects and Starbucks uses My Starbucks Idea to collect thoughts from their customers about how to improve their shops and products. Crowdfunder is the crowdfunding platform for businesses, with a growing social network of investors, tech startups, small businesses, and social enterprises. Crowdrise is a place for donation-based funding for Causes and Charities. Catwalk Genius is a crowdfunding fashion site. Wikipedia, the web based collaborative encyclopedia, has over 17 million articles written collaboratively by a crowd.
When I wrote my book, Quantum Leap Thinking: An Owner’s Guide to the Mind, I was enamored with group brainstorming. While brainstorming sometimes has its flaws, there is one element that holds true for both crowdsourcing and brainstorming: The more diverse the group, the more powerful the result. This is where we have to go against our desire to be comfortable.
Crowdsourcing is brainstorming – on steroids.
The reality is that people like people who are like themselves. The upside of surrounding yourself with people who have the same beliefs as you is that you can stay within your comfort zone. The downside is that you stay within your comfort zone. Growth comes from new and unique ideas and insights, and diversity creates human friction – which ignites the sparks of creativity.
One of the reasons our dinner parties are so enjoyable is that we always host a group of diverse individuals. While it may or may not include those of different ages, different religious beliefs, political views or ethnicity, it brings people together with different perspectives, diverse interpretations and unique ways of solving problems. Great energy, new thoughts, new ideas and new insights, magically seem to happen.
The point of this article is fairly straightforward. I am suggesting that you examine your life and, if you want to ramp-up your brain power and step out of your comfort zone, surround yourself with those individuals who will support you to live an exceptional life.

James Mapes is a life coach and the creator of The Transformational Coach™ program and the Patient Pre-Op/Post -Op Healing Therapy™ program. He is the author of Quantum Leap Thinking: An Owner’s Guide to the Mind. You may contact James at or by calling his office at 203-762-1200. Visit his web site