Has crowdsourcing jumped the shark?

With the launch of Starbucks' idea-generating site, it seems that these days, every major brand is putting a crowdsourcing program in place. Is the idea stale?

Tim Leberecht
Tim Leberecht is Frog Design's chief marketing officer. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET.
Tim Leberecht

Crowdsourcing has entered the mainstream big-time. It has become daunting to find a brand these days that does NOT have some crowdsourcing program in place.

My Starbucks Idea is just the latest example: Starbucks asks its consumers for advice, and besides certainly receiving a lot of good ideas, the troubled coffee chain makes consumers feel part of the brand remake.

It's the same template as usual: engage your community, harness its creativity, and let it create the content for you.

It works, sure, but it's getting stale. For some reason, marketing trends take two to three years before they are fully embraced, but if they are, then they become annoyingly ubiquitous (remember the "Tipping Point"?).

The reason is simple: Marketing executives are notoriously risk-averse (Seth Godin once reckoned that only if you're willing to put your job on the line will you do something truly innovative in marketing), and a model like crowdsourcing provides the right balance between safety net ("many others are doing it") and cutting edge ("crowdsourcing?" the CEO shrugged).

Crowdsourcing was a disruptive innovation two years ago, but now it's time to innovate crowdsourcing. It is a viable trend that has implications far beyond the marketing profession, but someone needs to take it to the next level.

So in the spirit of crowdsourcing, let me ask you: in the next stage, what could be a more innovative application of crowdsourcing?