The return of the dillettante – yeah, baby!

Cover of "Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of...

Cover via Amazon

It’s about time. Taylor’s been dead for almost 100 years, but we’re still struggling to get rid of him. Crowdsourcing may well add another nail.

What is crowdsourcing? Glad you asked – and thanks to those who voted in the recent poll. Crowdsourcing taps into the power of all you braniacs out there without bothering to go through the HR hassle of actually hiring people. I can see Bob Nutting getting all giggly at the very thought.

There will be plenty more to come on the topic, but I want to focus in on one aspect – the rise of amateurism. Or to put it another way – the return of the dilettante.  Jeff Howe in Crowdsourcing: How the Power of the Crowd is Driving the Future of Business goes through a very brief – and most likely a bit revisionist and oversimplified – history of education.

His theory is that people are now overqualified for many of the jobs we are doing. The PhD in chemistry is working as a quality supervisor. The PhD in classical Greek literature is a stock broker on Wall Street. The star MBA’er with a passion for Tolstoy is working in procurement (I couldn’t resist). What was a passing interest picked up during our eye-opening educational period has turned into a full-blown passion as boring adults.

So where’s the outlet for all this? Well, filling the inter-Google with bloggy nonsense for one. Creating YouTube clips of dancing monkeys for another. And solving science problems that (in your best presumptuous voice) leading corporate scientists can’t solve for a third. Weren’t expecting that one, were ya?

The Power of the crowd trumps the expert every time, as I found out through my own personal experience. The other main upshot of all this? The dull dude down the hall that has spent his whole life putting cover sheets on TPS reports and calling himself a stationary expert is no longer in demand.

If you don’t believe Jeff Howe (or me), ask MIT. They studied InnoCentive – a company that organizes the wise crowd for major corporations – and found that scientists solved scientific problems with more success when they had less relevant experience rather than more.

Its all about problem solving and not getting sucked into silo-style group-think. Tough problem? Don’t ask the expert/dull dude. Ask the crowd.


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