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An entirely different application of crowdsourcing comes in the form of “prediction markets.” These can be a boon for strategy formulation and product planning. For example, retailer Best Buy uses an internal prediction market, called TagTrade, to tap the collective intelligence of its tens of thousands of in-store employees. In 2003, DARPA also tried to put a prediction market to work: the Policy Analysis Market (or PAM), whose purpose was to anticipate future terrorist attacks. (When members of Congress denounced it as “grotesque” to enable online users to “bet” on “atrocities and terrorism,” PAM was shut down.) These markets represent a third type of crowdsourcing that is, in many ways, the most profound: the means to tap collective intelligence.

7. Keep it real. The downside of knowledge work—the lifeblood of technology-based collaboration—is its intangibility. It’s hard to visualize remote colleagues or a set of abstract tasks and deadlines. The most promising collaboration tools, thus, are those that provide updates from team members, relevant news feeds, project reports, deadline alerts, and other visual reminders that make the intangible tangible. This is especially critical for talent workers who are alone in remote locations or who collaborate on abstract tasks.

For example, DreamWorks Animation has created a global work space called Virtual Studio Collaboration. It combines animation design tools with high-definition videoconferencing and telepresence to let creators around the world work together on feature films. Their collaboration, once sequential, now takes place in real time—and the technology makes their connections palpable and immediate.

Similarly, some argue that the success of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner was due in part to the way the company integrated collaborative tools with the applications that engineers use to design the products themselves. Rival Airbus, which lacked such high-tech visualization tools and advanced aerospace design software, simultaneously suffered expensive failures, including delays in delivering the A380.

Many leading collaboration tools (including Jive, Traction, and SocialText) specialize in visualization of collaboration “streams.” In addition, technologies such as near-field communications (NFC) can make collaborators even more “real” to one another by tracking and connecting them virtually as they move through the physical world. NFC can instantly synchronize mobile devices with information resources, secure access to encrypted Wi-Fi networks, and coördinate physical movements of remote team members to enhance coöperation, accessibility, and accountability.

I hope these themes prove useful as a lens through which to absorb the articles appearing in Business Impact this month, and to assess the applicability of these ideas to your business now. Please share your views in the discussion section below.

Jeffrey F. Rayport specializes in analyzing the strategic implications of digital technologies for business and organizational design. He is managing partner of MarketspaceNext, a strategic advisory firm; an operating partner at Castanea Partners; and a former faculty member at Harvard Business School. Carine Carmy contributed research to this article.

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Tagged: Business, Business Impact, collaboration, Collaboration Tools, communication

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