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Crowdsourcing brings a new approach to consulting

12.12.2013
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Last week I looked at a new venture that was looking to crowdsource much of its core operations, from the kind of products they stock all the way down to their basic constitution.  There have been a few examples of such attempts over the past few years, with mixed results.  One of the more successful however is Wikistrat.

It is a consultancy company with a difference, in that it applies both crowdsourcing and gamification in a bid to provide clients with the best solutions around.  The company has around 850 experts in various fields who can lend their experience and expertise to a particular problem, although the core of the site is based around geopolitical issues.  These individuals contribute, and are paid, very much on a results basis, with each analyst compensated for their contributions to what Wikistrat call crowdsourced simulations.

These simulations form part of the simulations and project exercises the company offers to clients, with each project offered to analysts on an anonymous basis to ensure that the solutions offered are impartial.  The content produced during the brainstorming simulations are then taken by a Wikistrat employee and converted into a more traditional looking report for clients.

“We’ve developed a quite significant crowd network and a lot of functionality into the platform,” Zamel told Fast Company recently. “It uses a gamification engine we created that incentivizes analysts by ranking them at different levels for the work they do on the platform. They are immediately rewarded through the engine, and we also track granular changes made in real time. This allows us to track analyst activity and encourages them to put time and energy into Wiki analysis.”

An example of the kind of work the company produces can be found in their latest project, called Myanmar Moving Forward, which closes today.  The project asks the community of experts to map out Myanmar’s current political risk factor, and potential futures for the country in 2015. The simulation is designed to explore the current social, political, economic, and geopolitical threats to stability–i.e. its political risk–and to determine where the country is heading in terms of its social, political, economic, and geopolitical future.

The approach sees participants in each project take on the role of a player in a particular scenario.  The participants then identify what the long-term interests are over the next say 25 years for the actor they’re participating as.  So for instance, one participant may play as the USA, another as the EU, another as China and so on.  Each will outline where they think each is going, and define a strategy for how they believe they will get there.

Whilst their client list is not disclosed, it’s believed the model has already attracted clients from government departments, the energy and mining industries, and other multinationals looking to understand the risk involved in trading in certain countries.

The popularity is perhaps not surprising, as a glance through the expert community reveals a raft of heavy hitters across a range of related fields.  Can it act as a model for work in other fields?  That’s the million dollar question, but it certainly seems to be working in this field.

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