The Contours of Crowd Capability

New paper by Prashant Shukla and John Prpi: “The existence of dispersed knowledge has been a subject of inquiry for more than six decades. Despite the longevity of this rich research tradition, the “knowledge problem” has remained largely unresolved both in research and practice, and remains “the central theoretical problem of all social science”. However, in the 21st century, organizations are presented with opportunities through technology to potentially benefit from the dispersed knowledge problem to some extent. One such opportunity is represented by the recent emergence of a variety of crowd-engaging information systems (IS).
In this vein, Crowdsourcing  is being widely studied in numerous contexts, and the knowledge generated from these IS phenomena is well-documented. At the same time, other organizations are leveraging dispersed knowledge by putting in place IS-applications such as Predication Markets to gather large sample-size forecasts from within and without the organization. Similarly, we are also observing many organizations using IS-tools such as “Wikis” to access the knowledge of dispersed populations within the boundaries of the organization. Further still, other organizations are applying gamification techniques to accumulate Citizen Science knowledge from the public at large through IS.
Among these seemingly disparate phenomena, a complex ecology of crowd- engaging IS has emerged, involving millions of people all around the world generating knowledge for organizations through IS. However, despite the obvious scale and reach of this emerging crowd-engagement paradigm, there are no examples of research (as far as we know), that systematically compares and contrasts a large variety of these existing crowd-engaging IS-tools in one work. Understanding this current state of affairs, we seek to address this significant research void by comparing and contrasting a number of the crowd-engaging forms of IS currently available for organizational use.

To achieve this goal, we employ the Theory of Crowd Capital as a lens to systematically structure our investigation of crowd-engaging IS. Employing this parsimonious lens, we first explain how Crowd Capital is generated through Crowd Capability in organizations. Taking this conceptual platform as a point of departure, in Section 3, we offer an array of examples of IS currently in use in modern practice to generate Crowd Capital. We compare and contrast these emerging IS techniques using the Crowd Capability construct, therein highlighting some important choices that organizations face when entering the crowd- engagement fray. This comparison, which we term “The Contours of Crowd Capability”, can be used by decision-makers and researchers alike, to differentiate among the many extant methods of Crowd Capital generation. At the same time, our comparison also illustrates some important differences to be found in the internal organizational processes that accompany each form of crowd-engaging IS. In section 4, we conclude with a discussion of the limitations of our work.”

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