Can crowdsource work with best practices?

The term "crowdsource" is defined by Wikipedia as a new word "for the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and oursourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people, in the form of an open call." I sometimes relate the concept of Wikipedia itself as a crowdsource model since an encyclopedia item is open for the community to elaborate, correct, or update rather than locking it down to one "expert".

Traditionally, best practices or process methodologies have been devised by an individual or as small, closed group of experts. Often processes are generated within an organization from past experiences or collected from an industry standard, such as PMI for project management. I have found that one major challenge organizations have with defining or improving their internal best practices is the lack of time or priority commitment. They all know its valuable for the long-term, but most have fire's they need to put out. I was recently at Charles Schwab in San Francisco, and process leader gave me a great analogy. She said its like a river flowing past you and and you see a person thrashing in the river, nearly drowning. You jump in and pull him out to safety. The next person comes by and you pull her out at the last minute. You're exhausted, but there are more and more people thrashing for their lives and you jump in again and again to save them. While this is going on, you miss the main issue. Up the stream there's a man on bridge pushing people off!

Many would like to build a better process (such as having people cross a different bridge), but are too busy saving the day. Coming up with a better method can take a lot of thinking and trial and error. What's interesting is many companies have the same issues. I'm sure that among the thousands or organizations, someone has figured it out. I think this is where the power of collaboration and crowdsource can come in.

Last week, I tested the idea of crowdsourcing at a CBP Summit 2008, a Project & Strategy conference for Project Management Office directors and executives. Overwhelmingly, the audience felt peer collaboration with building best practices would be very helpful. Really, that's why they go to these conferences --- to get ideas from their peers. We presented a sneak preview of our PIEmatrix Crowdsource platform and it went better than I had expected. With this experience, we will expand this concept to include in our launch later this year. As we move forward, there's a number of ideas we will share with our private beta users, such as how crowdsourcing will be self policing, how to provide quality transparency (i.e., ratings), and how an organization can place a call to invite the community to work on their best practice needs, such as how do I get that dang guy off the bridge.

I would like to get your thoughts or ideas. Please comment.