Or rather, how to make volunteers think of themselves as Brand Me.
You might think that with the economy crashing, the free-labor business model would be crashing, too. Will people continue to invest in their personal brands during hard times? Gould is betting they will. Between investor visits during a late November trip to New York, he sips a soy latte and speculates. During the downturn, he says, firings are sapping loyalty to companies and steering people toward goals of self-sufficiency. In Gould's acerbic phrasing: "The only person I can rely on not to screw me—hopefully—is myself."
Beyond brand-hungry strivers, masses of free laborers continue to toil without ever seeing a payday, or even angling for one. Many find compensation in currencies that predate the market economy. These include winning praise from peers, earning an exalted place within a community, scoring thrills from winning, and finding satisfaction in helping others.
But how to monetize all that energy? From universities to the computer labs of Internet giants, researchers are working to decode motivations, and to perfect the art of enlisting volunteers. Prahbakar Raghavan, chief of Yahoo Research (YHOO), estimates that 4% to 6% of Yahoo's users are drawn to contribute their energies for free, whether it's writing movie reviews or handling questions at Yahoo Answers. If his team could devise incentives to draw upon the knowledge and creativity of a further 5%, it could provide a vital boost. Incentives might range from contests to scoreboards to thank-you notes. "Different types of personalities respond to different point systems," he says. Raghavan has hired microeconomists and sociologists from Harvard and Columbia universities to match different types of personalities with different rewards.
From Business Week.