Crowdsourcing: Learning from Birds

Nature is mysterious and a lot needs to be learnt from things we take for granted. One of the most amazing sights we could ever come across is a phenomenon when Starlings do a mass ballet. Commonly called a murmuation of Starlings (collective noun denoting a flock of Starlings), it signifies thousands of Starlins flying close to each other as if they were all acting as a single entity. There are many reasons for such a behavior. Among other reasons, its apparently a mechanism to deter predatory birds (unity in numbers), and the fear of being singled out makes everyone of the bird to remain in the group. The incredible thing about the murmaration is that there is no single leader and there aren’t any accidents. Here is an incredible video that has captured the murmuration of Starlings.

If you are wondering why my blog is turing into a zoology class, read on. The pervasiveness of internet and the mass adoption of social networking tools has seen Crowdsourcing taking off in a big way. The Open Source movement, and Wikipedia are the popular example of successful Crowdsourcing. As Starlings have demonstrated you don’t need Internet for crowdsourcing. The Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation is jointly owned by about 3 Million milk producers in India and has a commercially successful dairy brand called Amul.

Clearly in networked world enterprises cannot think as if they are smack in the middle of the industrial revolution. Hierarchical management structure, centralized decision making, information rationing have helped us to begin with, but is hurting us in a big way as exemplified by the collapse of our financial services industry in 2008. Not that nobody has taken notice of this issue. We have seen the growth of enterprise 2.0 products such as Yammer, Open  Text, Jive as enterprises try to make themselves relevant for the Gen Y workforce that is stepping into the corporate world.

I had the pleasure of listening to the keynote address at Enterprise 2.0 conference today (Nov 14) by Don Tapscott, the author of bestsellers like Wikinomics. Don spoke about networked intelligence as the way forward to solve the fundamental issues facing industries. He espouses the need for companies to take an industrywide approach to solving problems as opposed to acting as a single entity (just as the murmation of Starlings).  You can read Don’s latest book Macrowikinomics to understand how companies in diverse sectors have embraced crowdsourcing and collective action as a way to solving problems. And for the record, I don’t get any commission on the book sales 🙂

In my next post, I will focus on how Crowdsourced Learning is turning into a viable business opportunity and why enterprises should take note of this trend.

Srinivas Krishnaswamy


I love to read and share thoughts on technology, enterprise learning, mobile and any thing cool that impacts enterprises.

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Posted in Crowdsourcing, Social Learning

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