Why the Shift to Global Work Is a Massive Opportunity for the U.S.

Posted December 15, 2011 by

American companies will soon hire millions of designers, coders, writers, marketers, and other skilled people from all over the world, says Ross Dawson, co-author of the just-released book Getting Results From Crowds: The definitive guide to using crowd-sourcing to grow your business.

Ross Dawson“The shift to global work is not a problem for the U.S., it is a massive opportunity. The future of the economy depends on us embracing crowdsourcing. Companies must get good at creating value with crowds.”

‘Crowdsourcing’ describes how companies tap the collective capabilities of experts around the world, ranging from small businesses engaging overseas coders and designers through to multinationals such as IBM and Procter & Gamble drawing on many external contributors to generate the innovation that drives their success.

More than 75 percent of the U.S. workforce is in the service sector. As bandwidth soars, high value services can be done anywhere on the globe, exposing almost all US workers to both competition and new opportunities, and fundamentally changing the way businesses operate.

Dawson, chairman of think-tank Future Exploration Network and globally recognized as a leading futurist, points to six key issues:

  1. Service marketplaces such as oDesk, Elance, and Freelancer.com have already brokered over $1 billion of skilled work, much of it from U.S. companies to international workers. In order to survive, be competitive and build success, small and mid-sized companies need to draw on global talent. However it is not easy to do well, so a clear guidebook to using crowds can be extremely valuable.
  2. In a world driven by innovation, those companies that can successfully tap the power of crowds to drive ‘open innovation’ will have an immense advantage over those that rely on internal ideas and skills. Dell, Starbucks, Procter & Gamble, Google, and Netflix are among the many leaders that have embraced innovation from crowds.
  3. Crowdfunding (funding ventures through many small contributions) allows entrepreneurs to build valuable companies where they could not before. In addition to the many creative successes that have been funded by crowd donations, the Entrepreneur Access to Capital Act has just passed Congress to allow crowdfunding for equity. This has the potential to transform the entrepreneurial landscape, but companies need to understand how to crowdfund effectively.
  4. Businesses large and small have driven efficiencies and built new businesses by tapping sometimes many thousands of workers on platforms such as Amazon Mechanical Turk and CrowdFlower. “Companies need to create new structures and roles to deal with external workers,” says Dawson. “Building capabilities at project management and quality assurance will help companies seize the opportunity of distributed work.”
  5. There is an ethical debate about whether to hire locally or globally. Cost, quality, and contribution to local communities are among the many factors. “The reality is every business today encounters global competition and must tap the best talent wherever it is,” says Dawson. In addition, giving valuable and challenging work to people in developing countries is arguably the best way to help them participate in the global economy and create opportunities beyond working in sweatshops.
  6. Crowds will be at the center of the future of work and organizations, as we see a shift to freelancing and independent work and far higher use of external talent by businesses. Individuals must develop the collaborative skills and companies must adopt ‘crowd business models’ that will drive success in a very different world of work.
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