Creating Crowd-ed Sidewalks

As a college student decades ago, I learned an important lesson about crowd-sourcing ideas that still applies to the world of business today.

Construction was ongoing at the time throughout the campus of my small university in the U.S. Midwest, Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Missouri. Joplin is today best known for the unfortunate reason of being the place where the deadliest tornado in America struck on May 22 two years ago.

maps shows sidewalks following students natural paths

Well before concrete sidewalks were installed, students found and developed the natural path between buildings.
(View full map)

The part of the university campus I’m referring to here was not badly damaged in the tornado, so this map shows approximately where two buildings (numbers 14 and 17) were built in the 1970s and how the sidewalk connects them.

What happened when the buildings and sidewalk were built shows an early understanding of the value of crowd-sourcing an idea and channeling the wisdom of the masses.

Both of the buildings were built on a horseshoe-shaped commons area on campus. Rather than pouring concrete sidewalks between the facilities, the university let the students first make a footpath across the commons.

The students naturally found the shortest way to get from one place to another and over time wore a muddy path between the buildings. Then the university paved the sidewalk on top of the route that the students were already using. The unofficial shortcut then became the established direction for foot traffic.

Getting input from the end users of your ideas — by crowd-sourcing or cloud-sourcing the concepts — is an effective way to develop ”sticky” ideas before they are set in hard concrete.

Are you using the wisdom of crowds and clouds and stakeholders to find the best, most effective path forward? Ask, assess, then ask. We’re here to help!

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