5 minute read 8 Feb 2021
business colleagues wearing masks talking on street

How virtual collaboration can help build a better working world

5 minute read 8 Feb 2021

Organizations need to think creatively when using technology to unlock new insights.

In brief
  • Companies can re-establish and/or build trust by using open platforms to engage their workforce.
  • Crowdsourcing democratizes knowledge, supports globalization and empowers. professionals at all levels of the organization.
  • Organizations and leaders who harness the power of the crowd to ideate and co-create innovative solutions to global challenges will emerge at the forefront.

Arguably, one of the most valuable aspects of technology is how it connects people. And the unprecedented disruption in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic is seeing countless institutionalized practices and established norms being reimagined. In short, we’re living at a pivotal time where anyone can spark an idea potentially revolutionizing the working world.

But how can leaders and organizations harness that power? The past year has seen collaboration tools such as virtual forums, online focus groups and crowdsourcing tools re-envisioned, providing a powerful platform for the generation of potentially transformative insights.

Yet unlocking the true value of online collaboration depends on the extent to which crowd contributions are aggregated. It’s by creatively combining crowdsourcing functionality with other quantitative and qualitative data streams that a rich tapestry of insights can be unearthed. 

“In a standard crowdsourcing process, the input of the crowd isn’t necessarily aggregated into a final output,” explains EY Global Deputy People Advisory Services Leader Liz Fealy.  “And our clients have found that it is the synthesis of data into insight – actionable insights that are right for them – that is the most valuable piece of the puzzle. For this reason, crowdsourcing is a useful addition to accelerate innovation in the wider resource mix, but ineffective when it’s used as a substitute for strategic and operational planning.”

It’s not what you know, but how you use it

Collecting behavioral insights (amongst others) using crowdsourcing has been a growing trend for decades. In fact, crowdsourcing existed as a concept long before the term was invented. The open-source software movement of the 1980s proved that insights from large numbers of people could be collected to produce better technology.

Crowdsourcing works on the principle of “many heads are better than one” – i.e., superior-quality content is achieved because of the diverse range of perspectives shared. In terms of information, it is the most comprehensive. In terms of design, it is optimally conceptualized. In terms of micro tasks, it is optimally detailed. 

In a piece titled: How should we make collective decisions, Amartya Sen notes “…for both ethical and practical reasons, social scientists have long investigated how the concerns of a society’s members can be reflected in one way or another in its collective decisions.” While the practice is not without compromise, the consensus is that democratizing decision-making is a highly positive practice. According to research from Cloverpop, generally, teams make better decisions than individuals 66% of the time. When diversity is added to the equation (including age, gender and geography), teams make better decisions 87% of the time.

Today, enabled by remote and virtual technologies, humans and workforces around the world have discovered new ways of communicating and collaborating to build bonds that transcend physical distance.

Crowdsourcing technology is evolving to connect people, ideas and insight in a virtual and socially-distanced world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has, in many ways, ushered in a new renaissance for leaders to envision a new working world. In 2021 the focus will shift from tackling the current crisis, to recovery. How agile organizations and their workforces can be in responding and adapting to new challenges will determine who thrives. Across the board, organizations will have to decide whether the technological behaviors they adopted during the pandemic, from video conferencing to remote working to distance learning, will slip away or stick.

A pivotal piece of this is the recognition that a traditional “tone-from-the-top” approach is no longer enough to create a positive and dynamic workplace. Every voice needs to be heard.

Studies on inclusive leadership suggest employees are three and a half times more likely to contribute to full innovation potential and 39% more likely to be engaged if they are heard.

Employee engagement


The increase in likelihood that employees will contribute to innovation if they are heard.

Example in practice

In 2020, the EY organization tapped the power of crowdsourcing to connect leaders of companies who were envisioning their return to physical work strategies. As initial lockdowns lifted, it was highly beneficial for leaders to share perspective, contribute to insight generation and connect with each other to understand how best to keep their employees safe, well and at the center of all decision making related to the organization’s response to COVID-19. In total, over 4,000 participants shared their voice and perspective. 

Crowdsourcing technology, with the right support behind it, benefits the objectives of the entire C-suite.

Now, as we begin to envision the future of work, crowdsourcing has a critical role to play. Collaboration and connection can unlock new insight and perspective that business leaders can use to build trust, foster innovation and deliver long-term value.

“Crowdsourcing technology, with the right support behind it, benefits the objectives of the entire C-suite,” adds Fealy. “Chief Executive Officers can use it to chart a new course for their organization, reinventing and regularly adapting their strategy for long-term value creation based on what the crowd is saying. Chief Human Resources Officers can be better connected to the people they support, optimizing the employee experience to address the widening employee experience gap. Chief Technology Officers can access new data lakes containing insights that transcend the transactional and Chief Marketing Officers can leverage the same insights to better understand the needs of their markets and deliver an enhanced customer experience.”

As leaders look to reimagine the working world, crowdsourcing’s ability to enable new ways of thinking and to unlock new insight should not be overlooked.  


Unprecedented disruption has reshaped nearly every aspect of the working world. Enabled by technology, humans have come together to reshape and reimagine what’s next. Through crowdsourcing, there is opportunity to bring together hundreds, even thousands of voices to unlock new ideas and insight that can build a better, more just, sustainable world.

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