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Swarms, crowd sourcing, and tiger teams. Oh my.

As we grow our businesses, we inevitably run into problems that seem for a time impossible to overcome.  Our development team is stumped with a problem; or the marketing organization cannot come up with a theme for the next campaign; or the team has hit a wall where further speed, size reduction, or other constraint seems impossible to overcome.

No one has the resources to solve all problems in all areas of the business.  And every department can use creative thinking from others outside the department to overcome barriers created by “inside the box” thinking.  There are at least three excellent methods of reaching out to solve seemingly insurmountable problems, aided greatly by virtual companies, cost-free distance communications and the newest mass communication tools such as group video conferencing.

First: Swarming. The project leader presents a problem to the entirety of the inside network of stakeholders, including suppliers and even customers if appropriate, and opens a channel for easy communication between the players.  The group interacts quickly and solutions seem to fly in from several sides, tested and refined by the swarm until solved.

[Email readers, continue here…]  Crowd sourcing.  Today, it is possible to easily send a problem out to the world of thinkers within and outside of our network, offering a reward in the form of money or prestige for the one solving the problem first or best.  There is no fixed cost to this network-enabled technique until the solution is offered.  And the sheer size of the open-ended workforce will create potential solutions far more creative than when the problem is presented to an internal group of departmental thinkers.

Tiger teams.  No CEO wants to create a permanent team for a temporary problem.  Most of us fear that such teams or committees find their own self-perpetuating reasons to continue after the primary problem has been solved.  Tiger teams are formed with the specific purpose of focusing human resources upon a single problem, solving the problem then disbanding with a quick celebration of success.  There is no issue of leadership succession, allocation of additional regular meeting time or even of failure.  The team comes together to solve a single problem, and either solves it or passes it back for solving by an outside resource such as crowd sourcing if unable.

In each of these three methods of problem solving, the strength comes from the focus of a group that is temporary, committed, and focused.   And all three are children of the new age in which management and communications are fluid and readily available for problem solving.

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