This past week we saw an amazing demonstration of crowdsourcing as a result of the collaboration, courage, and the completion of the capture of the Boston Marathon bombers. This was truly crisis management at its best – and the actions of our country showed the beauty and elements I love to talk about when I speak about crisis management to groups and individuals.
After the crisis ensued on Monday, April 15th, 2013, the first illustration of crowdsourcing burst forth from the generous souls who ran toward the finish line at the Boston Marathon to help those who had been struck down. This included a combination of those who were First Responders, trained and prepared for such an event, and those who had no training but were willing to give selflessly of themselves to help others who had been injured. This incredible demonstration of courage and grace was something to stand up and shout about! But it didn’t stop there.
Runners who had been running in the grueling 26.2 mile marathon ran through the finish line and headed off to the hospital to give blood to support those who had been injured by the attack.
Others who learned of the events occurring called family and friends and posted on Facebook and other sites to inform those we knew of the incident that had occurred and to make sure our loved ones were secure, safe and informed.
Pictures abound on the Internet of the myriad heroes from that day, the actual day of the incident.
Crisis management is not just about the incident, though. What’s more important about crisis management is how you choose to handle your thoughts, feelings and actions once the incident has occurred. This is the impetus for crowdsourcing in action.
We watched in anticipation and with great hope that the next steps taken would stop the terror and fear incited in one of our nation’s beloved cities that was celebrating its glory on what could have been just another amazing day in Boston’s history of honoring Patriots’ Day. Instead, the nation celebrated Patriots’ Day through a combination of horror and joy at seeing the photos and images of those struck down alongside those who gracefully lent them a hand, or two, and got them to safety with loving care and kindness.
The nation continued to celebrate Boston even after Patriots’ Day, with congregations and constituents of every faith coming together to pray, with eyes and ears open for way to support and assist those we knew in the area and those we didn’t, while asking the pivotal question, “How can we help?”
The FBI turned their efforts into a pivotal answer to that question on Thursday, April 18th, when their leads were falling short of helping them catch the culprits. They invoked the power of crowdsourcing, often thought to simply be a tool dedicated to supporting entrepreneurial and not-for-profit endeavors. The FBI released the photos of the suspects to the nation and the world and responded to the crying question asked by millions by saying in so many words, “Here is how you can help: identify the suspects and help us catch them.”
The authorities were clear. They were specific, and they enrolled every person to use their fears to fuel the collaborative effort to catch those who had threatened their feelings of freedom and safety.
It takes a lot of courage to ask for help, especially when one is crisis. Fears abound as to what will others think of me or us if we tell them what’s really happening and what we need.
The authorities had more courage in that moment when they made that decision than many may realize.
As a result, the crisis heightened as information and assistance from the public came pouring in. Law enforcement authorities from every level worked together beautifully with each other and citizens in a fashion that many may rarely see. This is not something to be glossed over or quickly forgotten. It was the key to solving the situation and bringing the crisis to an end.
During the next 48 hours after asking for help and assistance, a siting of the suspects occurred and individuals took the specific actions requested by law enforcement: they called in each siting so as to help law enforcement not only identify the suspects but track them down.
Then, crowdsourcing and collaboration once again turned crisis management into a cooperative win for all those whose lives the crisis touched. After following the orders of law enforcement and the authorities to stay indoors all day on Friday, April 19th, the determination was made to allow residents out of their homes in Watertown, MA, in the early evening. Adults and children breathed the fresh air and a hint of freedom – for 30 minutes.
One individual, however, acted in cooperation with that still pivotal question, “How can I help?” when he saw something amiss with the boat he had winterized that was sitting in his backyard. After seeing blood on the tarp and a ladder by it that had not been there before, this individual did two things: (1) he checked out what he saw, pulled the tarp back and confirmed that there was something not right – a bloodied man lay in his boat under the tarp; and (2) he notified the authorities, again following directions and collaborating with others instead of trying to handle the situation himself.
As a result of this repeated crowdsourcing and collaborative effort between authorities and the public, the crisis was brought to an end as the second suspect was apprehended and captured amidst the watchful eyes of our nation and the world.
Collaboration is the key in a crisis. The skills required for crisis management are not those of the lone hero. They are the skills required for any great organization, corporation, entrepreneurial endeavor, non-profit campaign, and individual situation.
Listening is one of these critical skills. Acting in accordance with what instructions are given is another one of them.
Crowdsourcing inherently implies that we’re going to do it together. “Together” is a combination of three words:
To = meaning in the direction of, expressing motion or direction toward a point, person, place or thing approached or reached
Get = meaning to obtain, acquire or go after for one’s own or for another’s purposes
Her = representing the pronoun for a person, in this case a female
“Together” is the resolute commitment for crowdsourcing; it means no one person is going to go it alone. It indicates that everyone will grab a hand of the person next to them and run after the objective as a team, working as one unit for the ultimate outcome desired.
Lee Greenwood sings a fabulous lyric in his song, “God Bless the U.S.A.” when he says, “I proudly stand up, next to you, and defend her still today.”
This is crowdsourcing in the midst of crisis: standing up next to one another and together facing it with courage, commitment and collaboration.
This is the essence of crowdsourcing. And last week, as a result of multiple crowdsourcing efforts, the crisis we all faced was brought to a close as those who created it were captured.
Next time you experience a crisis yourself or if you are informed of a crisis being faced by someone else, large or small, I encourage you to think of the benefits of crowdsourcing including intentional collaboration, kindness, generosity of spirit, and the pivotal question we can all ask, “How can I help?”
You have the right to remain fabulous!