I’ve written in the past about Wikistrat, a crowd sourced geo-political consultancy, and more recently, Tongal, a crowd sourced platform for coming up with ideas for marketing campaigns. My fascination with crowd sourcing is simple. It’s awesome!!! Which is why I wanted to see if I could come up with an idea for a crowd sourcing platform for something that has not yet taken advantage of the wisdom of crowds but which could really benefit from doing so. As it turns out I know just the thing: sports.
If you think about it professional sports are tailor made for crowd sourcing. They already employ a network of people, known as scouts, that they rely upon for insights. However, with limited time and resources it’s hard for those scouts to see every player and in turn it’s hard for the organizations that employ them to get a complete picture of every player that is available in the draft. Wouldn’t it be great then if those organization could rely on the opinions of hundreds or even thousands of people instead of just a handful?
The key becomes whether or not you can trust the opinion of total strangers from all walks of life who wouldn’t have had any formal training as a scout. I believe that you could. Fans today are smarter than they were even just ten years ago. We’re no longer slaves to the basic statistics provided by TV broadcasts. Thanks to the internet, the popularity of Money Ball and the advancement of sabermetrics most fans, even casual fans, are now intimately aware of the more sophisticated metrics that teams are utilizing nowadays.
Take me for example. I’m a pretty big baseball fan. I’m in several fantasy baseball leagues and I’ve started a tradition of going to Spring Training every year. I could probably file a pretty accurate report on a player that I’m watching in person or even on TV. I may not know a whole lot about a pitcher’s arm angle or a hitter’s swing path but it’s fairly obvious to me which players have potential and which are over matched. Couldn’t my broad insights be useful to a professional team? Especially if those insights are coming at a high school or college game that they’re aren’t sending their own scouts to cover?
Baseball aside just think about how useful this could be to other sports like baseball and football that don’t have the traditional scouting budgets that baseball teams do. Front office executives in these sports rely on video clips and what they see at scouting combines. Wouldn’t it make sense for them then to also take in consideration what thousands of amateur scouts see from attending games in person? Sure these “scouts” would consist of parents, teachers, and school administrators some of whom may be biased. But it also would consist of hundreds if not thousands of fans, like you and me, that would be objective. And with that many people filing reports it would be easy to get an accurate picture of who the majority of people think are the best players.
The best part about a crowd sourced scouting platform like WikiScout is that it could translate to other industries as well. Take music for example. Wouldn’t it make sense for the music labels to listen to thousands of fans who are giving their recommendation on who is about to blow up instead of relying on just a few people to make that determination for the many? After all, if thousands of people are all raving about the same band then they’re probably on to something. Perhaps the wisdom of the crowd could even be applied to the stock market as it relates to noticing trends and identifying promising stocks on the rise.
In order for this concept to take off though it would be important to provide incentives to the crowd. The way to do that would be to create a gamification engine. The more you scout and the more detailed your reports are the more points you earn. Points could then be redeemed for prizes such as tickets to games or concerts and merchandise that are provided by the organizations and companies reaping the benefits from the wisdom of the crowd. It’s kind of like scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. Everyone wins.
All in all, I really believe that a crowd sourced approach to scouting amateur and professional athletes could really catch on. Fans would pay attention more and form a deeper connection to the game they love while helping the on field product improve. Teams would save money and have a built in excuse when the team struggles as they could shrug their shoulders and say don’t blame us all of you thought that player was going to be good too. It’s the best of both worlds.
When it comes to scouting baseball players who would you rather trust? These guys? Or the wisdom of thousands of fans?