From Outsourcing to Crowdsourcing to Othersourcing

There's nothing like reading a few forward-looking magazines, like Wired, The Futurist, and Scientific American to get me going!

So I've noticed a trend in today's - and perhaps tomorrow's - work force. Away from us - to them.

Start with outsourcing and it's evil twin, offshoring: the practice by companies and organizations of hiring outside help to get specific jobs done. It saves money, hassle and often gives the job to those who are prepared to do it best. 

In the case of offshoring, it sends the jobs over seas to countries that have previously been locked out of the prosperity loop. And leaves many Americans out of a job - and starting their own businesses. We all know this story.

Then there's crowdsourcing. This has been around a while, too, but it's growing into a world-wide business phenomenon that may also result in even more people - including those who are paid to think - losing their jobs.

Coaches who are reading this blog probably first encountered crowdsourcing with Thomas Leonard's R&D Teams. The idea was to get your best customers to join your R&D Team and tell you what they want to buy from you - basically give you ideas on what to create next. Pure genius! Not only does it save time, money, & effort, but almost guarantees success, PLUS (note: this is a BIG plus) it creates huge buy-in. ("Ideas are like children. Everyone loves their own, best." - Chinese Fortune Cookie)

Well, crowdsourcing is on steroids now, to the point that "the crowd", who have been contributing their ideas as a hobby, may eventually put themselves out of work.

Probably the best example right now of crowdsourcing is Wikipedia. (I just copied this definition of "Wiki" from the site: A wiki (IPA: [ˈwiː.kiː] or [ˈwɪ.kiː] [1]) is a type of website that allows users to add, remove, or otherwise edit and change all content very quickly and easily, sometimes without the need for registration. This ease of interaction and operation makes a wiki an effective tool for collaborative writing. The term wiki can also refer to the collaborative software itself (wiki engine) that facilitates the operation of such a website (see wiki software), or to certain specific wiki sites, including the computer science site (and original wiki), WikiWikiWeb, and the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. The word wiki is a shorter form of wiki wiki (weekie, weekie) which is from the native language of Hawaii (Hawaiian), where it is commonly used as an adjective to denote something "quick" or "fast" (Hawaiian dictionary). As an adverb, it means "quickly" or "fast".) 

The "wiki" movement is similar to the pro/am movement that certainly describes coaching: People contributing their skills for fun and often hoping to make a few bucks, too. Open source, is another example, such as Linux and .LRN. There are a number of coaching organizations that are relying on coaches to contribute their ideas for free in order to create content and all this is great. So great that what you know is no longer a commodity, because people can get it, wiki wiki, for free.

Hmph! That means that more jobs, including those that so far, haven't been vulnerable to offshoring, may be disappearing - knowledge-based jobs, like teachers, trainers, researchers and consultants. The good news for coaches is that one thing people can't get from the crowd is coaching - yet.

Enter...Othersourcing, the practice (not new) of turning over jobs to machines. Need an accountant? Get Quickbooks. Need an assistant? Get a Blackberry. No sooner have the jobs left our shores, then they've left the physical planet. Some of those forward-thinking mags I mentioned are predicting that, because left-brained jobs will pretty much disappear from the developed world, right-brained work is where all the action will be: communicating, relating, influencing, inspiring, intuiting, etc., will be the new hard skills. (Hmmm, these are the areas where supposedly women outstrip men. Does this mean women will waaay out-earn men in the new Century??)

It all bodes well for coaches, who master all of the above, because nobody can build machines that do what we do, can they?

Not yet, anyway.

Some of the things they're doing with artificial intelligence and robotics, weaving in emotion and sensors that pick up our emotions suggest otherwise. It may just be a matter of time.

Would people go to an AI coach? Would they get anything out of it? Wouldn't they prefer being coached by a human? Who knows?

What if AI coaches are actually better then human coaches? (They could be really good at getting their egos out of the way....)

My point is that technology tends to follow need. If future standards of living dictate that more people need coaches for less money, the technology will be developed. Our success could lead to our demise, or our freedom. Depends on how you look at it.

Today I was talking to a brilliant coach, who mentioned that she outsources her problems to spirit. What an incredible concept: Godsourcing. (Or is it just Sourcing?)

Technology is marching on. (Actually, Ray Kurtzweil says it's increasing exponentially. The "march" is approaching light-speed.) This will create new problems or opportunities, depending on your focus.

Perhaps the only thing we really will have over machines in the future, is our souls.

Then what will we all do for work?


Copyright, Julia Stewart, 2007

Leave a Comment