Crowdsourcing is about using the 'wisdom of crowds' to make decisions, the idea being that a larger population will provide better data, create better products and produce better results that a small group or an individual. So crowdsourced feedback is open, unstructured feedback from many, rather than a few, colleagues.
By its very nature, crowdsourced feedback is more immediate and frequent than the more familiar 360 degree feedback process used in most organisations.
In crowdsourced feedback, colleagues are able, at any time, and using an online tool, to provide immediate feedback to their colleague on something they have seen them doing or saying. It can be anonymous, although in keeping with the 'social networking' concept, it often does identify the feedback provider.
Because of its immediacy, crowdsourced feedback can be a more accurate feedback record than 360, which can sometimes suffer from people's tendency to remember only recent activities and behaviours.
On the minus side, its lack of structure means that it's difficult to analyse the feedback in a way that provides a clear set of themes to the appraisee: colleagues may comment randomly on many different behaviours and activities, and it may be difficult to connect the feedback together in any meaningful way. And just because lots of people have contributed, it doesn't mean that the feedback is necessarily more valid - that's more a factor of whether those giving feedback are able to give really constructive and useful feedback, not just general encouragement.
And of course there is the issues of negative feedback being instantly available to the appraisee without the 'safety net' that a managed 360 process usually provides.
Therefore it seemsthat crowdsourced feedback is a brilliant tool for sharing knowledge and ideas between teams, for giving people credit for their actions, and for creating a culture of open feedback in the organisation.
It's probably less useful than 360 feedback when you need a more robust assessment of competencies or behaviours, for instance when you're developing specific leadership or management capabilities in the organisation. Structured 360 would also seem to be more appropriate when you want to consistently measure and compare skills and behaviours across groups or teams. And individual development coaching needs a more in depth and thoughtful feedback process than crowdsourcing can potentially provide.
Would you ever consider using crowdsourced feedback in your organisation?
At Track, Jo has advised on, and led the development of 360 and other online assessments for leading organisations including John Lewis Partnership, Waitrose, Baker & McKenzie, Nuffield Health, Fujitsu and Saudi Telecom.