According to Wikipedia:
Crowdsourcing is a neologism (a word not yet accepted by the mainstream) for the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people, in the form of an open call.
Wikipedia itself is an excellent example of crowdsourcing. Wikipedia enlists the help of a large group of people to share the task of writing and expanding the online information source. Other examples of crowdsourcing are iStockphoto and plethera of web sites where you can purchase stock photographs from many photographers at a significantly lower price then hiring a photographer yourself.
Who’s into crowdsourcing? Getty Images recently paid $50 million for iStockphoto, a Web site where more than 23,000 amateur photographers upload and distribute their stock photographs. Hipster clothing company Threadless.com prints and sells t-shirts designed by people on its Web site. Linden Lab’s 3-D virtual world, Second Life, allows people to create and retain the intellectual property rights on new businesses, brands, and personalities. Business Week 9/25/08
Croudsouring is an excellent method of generating new, innovative ideas within an organization or industry that otherwise seems “locked” in the box. It is also a very effective method for fund raising. A large group of people giving small donations may be a more viable growth strategy for not-for-profits then focusing on a single donor with large pockets. Best of all, geography no longer factors into the equation. The Internet has removed the borders from the talent that can be tapped.
Web 2.0 has created a proliferation of web sites that offer the consumer the ability to be vested in product design, generate ideas or provide the actual product. Croudsourcing at it’s best? See Crowdsourcing,
Milk the masses for inspiration: make sure you are tapping the right crowd, have an effective method for filtering ideas and have a viable / active community to tap into.