Tag: crowdsourcing

Introducing: CBS’s Wisdom of the Crowd

CBS's Wisdom of the CrowdCBS debuted a new show Sunday night called “Wisdom of the Crowd.” It’s about a tech CEO, played by Jeremy Piven, who builds a crowdsourcing platform to help find his daughter’s killer.

Sophia, as the platform is named, is essentially a network of solvers who can contribute information to help find Mia Tanner’s real killer, not unlike, minus the murder part. Ostensibly, Sophia then wades through the noise to find the tips of value.

As an Innovation Strategist at a company that also built a platform that specializes in crowdsourcing, I found the show’s premise intriguing. Not in a good way, though. I saw it as an opportunity to stretch out the ol’ snark muscles and really rip into it. While it did have its share of ridiculousness, it had a few surprising parallels to the work we do every day. I picked a few of my favorite parts from the show and connected them to our reality.

WISDOM OF THE CROWD: A few minutes into the show, Tanner (no word on whether there’s any relation to the other famous San Francisco Tanner family) used the Parable of the Ox to explain crowdsourcing to the doubting Detective Cavanaugh: “100 years ago, there was a scientist, Sir Francis Galton. He went to a county fair. He asked 800 people to guess the weight of a prize-winning ox. No one could get it exactly right. But then, when he averaged in all of the answers, they were dead on, within a half a pound. That’s what it does.”

REALITY: OK, yes, we use that story all the time.

WOTC: “Crowdsourcing is sifting through the dirt until you find the gold. 90% of anything is garbage, but 10% of everything, that’s a helluva lot of bling.”

REALITY: I get the idea, but it’s a bit extreme compared to the reality. Crowdsourcing and open innovation aren’t famine or feast. There’s a lot of room between dirt and gold.

WOTC: They were hacked like a day after releasing the platform, then they guy who hacked them literally came to their front door to introduce himself.

REALITY: That’s definitely how it works.

WOTC: Their Head of Engineering is a dreamy Brit.

REALITY: No, but our Head of Product is.

WOTC: Tanner offers $100,000,000 “to anyone that can help identify or apprehend the killer of my daughter.”

REALITY: Well, yes, incentivization is an important part of any crowdsourcing effort. However, when it’s financial, which isn’t always the case, it typically has way fewer zeros than Tanner’s bounty. Oftentimes, it’s not money at all; it’s lunch with the boss, recognition in communications materials or a banquet, or even some extra time off. For more tips on incentivization with shallower pockets than Tanner’s, check out our resource on creative, non-monetary awards.

WOTC: While it didn’t happen on the pilot, they’re probably going to find and convict the real killer.

REALITY: While we feel what IdeaScale and IdeaBuzz do is pretty sexy — finding ways to repurpose recycled glass, helping cure cancer, and helping accelerate more energy-efficient technology to market — it isn’t TV sexy, solving-murder sexy, CBS Sunday Night sexy. As Tanner put it, “People want to be a part of something meaningful.”

That, we can agree on. If you want to learn more about joining our crowdsourcing brigade, get started at or As for me, consider this my two weeks’ notice. I’m with Piven.

Understanding the Source of Employee Innovation

Boredom is one of those facets of life that consistently amaze. How can any person be bored when there is so much around us that stimulates our intellect and inspires our awe? And why do we continuously and mindlessly scroll through television channels and facebook feeds instead of focusing our energy on creating something of beauty or value?

Boredom persists. In the workplace, we call this phenomenon, disengagement. All managers dread this and go to great lengths to improve engagement in the workplace. Whether it’s motivating staff, reaching customers, or simply having a conversation, employers want engaging interactions. They crave opinions and other forms of employee feedback, especially when those choice pieces of feedback help to directly further company goals.

The dilemma is, how do managers create engagement? Employees can’t be beaten with sticks (you can try but your HR team will likely frown upon it). You can’t yell at people to not be bored or to focus more.

No, the secret to employee engagement is curiosity and challenge. When people are challenged, their minds will naturally start formulating solutions. We call this, creativity. Marketing people call it, innovation. What follows are a few pieces of advice to encourage innovation (or creativity) from your employees.

Engagement Powers Activate!

Each day, we are flooded with information and stimuli. Take, for example, that little number in the corner of your inbox that numbers emails in the thousands or tens of thousands. Those are pieces of information that we have to analyze, prioritize and process. Our brains sort this information into two buckets — interesting and unworthy.

We actually have a dedicated neural network that manages this process which is called, The Reticular Activating System (RAS).  The RAS has two main functions; 1) highlighting relevant information in real time, and 2) stimulating pattern recognition to fuel innovative thinking.

In terms of our biology, the RAS monitors our shift between rest and wakefulness. Functionally, as it applies to how we communicate and perform throughout the day, the RAS determines whether we should tune stimuli out or tune them in.

Recognizing how the RAS functions provides an opportunity to improve engagement in the workplace. It can help us determine how we communicate and how often. Should we send someone thirty emails or have a ten minute conversation?

Are people falling asleep in meetings? If they look disengaged or bored, they are tuning you out. That means it’s time to change the content or format of your meeting. When people are engaged, they are attentive and responsive in meetings. They inspired to be more creative in their tasks and find new ways to accomplish their goals.

Reinforcing Engagement

Useful information activates the RAS to pay attention. When new or interesting information is in front of us, we focus. When that moment passes in a meeting, and we are told information that is irrelevant or that we already know, our RAS prompts us to disengage.

The best way to engage employees is to give them something that inspires curiosity. Being told a statement requires no thought on the part of the person to whom information is being conveyed. Being asked a question, though, prompts us to think about the answer.

The more questions we ask others, the more that they feel engaged – and that engagement persists over time as long as the questions remain pertinent. A question becomes part of our subconscious, and as time goes on, we are drawn to information that relates to what we were asked.

Leading Staff to Innovate

People managers can use the Reticular Activating Systems of their employees to engage staff in positive directions for the company. But do people always view the company’s success as their own success? How can you keep your staff focused and have them care about outcomes?

One way is to engage your staff by enrolling them in creating their own personal quarterly objectives that are tied to the quarterly objectives of the team and the company.

Another way to engage your staff is to move them away from a focus on individual success and towards a focus on success for the team. You can ask them what can be done to improve a situation and encourage them to crowdsource ideas from the rest of the staff. People who are challenged and curious and who are working towards a collective goal are more likely to innovate, instead of just passively doing their jobs.

Finally, let them know that their ideas have value through consistent recognition and reward.

Companies can provide personal incentives (a bonus or recognition of a job well done) to motivate individual participation. Employees learn that contributing to the company’s success will produce personal success for them as well.

Low employee engagement continues to baffle Human Resource professionals, middle managers, and company leaders the world over. But the solution is really not that complicated. Pay attention to employees and notice when they tune out and when they tune in. Then ask questions to keep them curious and challenge them so that their natural propensity towards innovation remains activated.

This blog is a guest post by David Mizne, Content Strategist of 15five

Seven Critical Crowdsourcing and Open Innovation Mistakes to Avoid

Don’t get frustrated with your crowdsourcing campaign.

Crowdsourcing and open innovation are great ideas. But like any great ideas, great results need smart execution. Too many ideas fall into a crowdsourcing gap, so here are the problems to avoid.

Unfocused Strategy

By far the biggest problem is people have an idea and decide, vaguely, to throw crowdsourcing at the problem. But throwing an idea at the wall to see what sticks isn’t going to work. You need a clear, detailed strategy before you start any crowdsourcing campaign. If you’re planning to expand your ideas, write a very clear outline of how you expect to progress, just like any other project.

Unclear Goals

Another surprising problem many crowdsourcing campaigns have is that they aren’t entirely sure how they want to use crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing will be tough if your crowd doesn’t understand why you need them. If you don’t have clear goals, your campaign will stall before it even starts. Set realistic goals; know exactly what you want, what your definition of success for the campaign is, and what you’ll do once the campaign has been wrapped.

Choosing Crowdsourcing Instead Of Open Innovation

Crowdsourcing and open innovation are two very different things. Crowdsourcing is a public, open idea pulling from the entire world, or at least the part of the world from which you can gain attention. Open innovation is a more limited process that draws from your company. Using the right type will help make your campaign successful and it will also generally make the campaign smoother. So look closely at how you’ll implement it.

Choosing The Wrong Crowd

Another factor that can derail your campaign is catering to the wrong crowd. Sometimes your consumers need to weigh in on a campaign. At other times, your business customers will be your primary audience. Any crowdsourcing program needs to target the right audience, or you’ll find yourself with no sourcing crowd.

Don’t make these mistakes with your crowdsourcing campaign.

Not Rallying Support

Crowdsourcing campaigns need to be supported not just by the crowd but also from the company running the campaign. Any crowdsourcing campaign can experience pushback at the beginning, sometimes legitimate, such as lawyers raising questions about IP law, and just naysaying about crowdsourcing in general. Before you launch any campaign, get your stakeholders on board. Address concerns where you are able, and get everyone on board.

Going It Alone

Another common mistake is assuming that you have to do absolutely everything, from building the platform to determining the rewards you’re offering and making sure they get delivered as promised. You not only don’t have to do everything alone, you probably won’t have the time. Working with a platform designed for crowdsourcing from the ground up can ensure a better campaign.

Ignoring Marketing

One of the big mistakes of crowdsourcing is assuming that the crowd will also take care of the marketing. In truth, you’ll need to figure out how you’ll catch and hold the attention of your crowd, instead of counting on word of mouth.

As you can see, crowdsourcing is not a tool to be used lightly. Before jumping in, know what you’re doing. To start building your successful crowdsourcing campaign, join the IdeaScale community.

Incentives for Participation or Incentives for Success? What Works?

incentives for participationIn a fast-paced corporate environment where there are many expectations and a steady stream of work, how (and more importantly) why, would you carve out time to contribute to your company’s new ideation platform?

Recently a customer asked me if I could share some insight as to what type of incentives really work to drive engagement across divisions and companies. This is an extremely common question for new customers looking to ensure that they can justify their investment in an innovation management platform by ensuring good participation volumes. This customer in particular was interested in the impact of career advancement opportunities on participation volume.

It’s a great question because career advancement is known to be an excellent motivator and yet despite the evidenceour recent report showed that only 8% of our customers included “career growth” as one of their explicit incentive offerings.

While extrapolating success simply based on this is a little too messy to create a clean statement of fact, it is worth noting that every one of these respondents indicated that their IdeaScale innovation management program proved value within the first month of existence.

It turns out that successful incentive programs require a flexible, multi-faceted approach. Here’s why: your incentive strategy should be driven by your crowdsourcing objectives. In other words, if your goal is to source high-caliber, implementation-ready ideas then participation volume is simply one of several things you might want to optimize. Given that you may be sourcing different types of solutions, consider also focusing on how your incentives will impact the nature of the participation (e.g. highly detailed and technical, casual and quick or out-of-the-box), the specific type of participation (e.g. voting, commenting, scoring…) and the roles and composition of the participants (experts, front-line employees, customers, etc…).

For more information I recommend an insightful book called “Wiser” by Cass Sunstein and Reid Hastie. The book focuses on how to develop and leverage smart groups, specifically how incentives can lead to best solutions.

One of the most interesting things I learned was how individuals within teams perform better as individuals when incentives are offered for the team as a whole. In other words, if you offer a prize to the team/department from which the best idea comes from, you’ll achieve a few things: 1. The classic extrinsic reward-type motivation, 2. enhanced collaboration via shared objectives, and 3. reduced risk to individuals for stepping outside of groupthink (commonly accepted wisdom) or traditional hierarchy, thus leading to a healthier diversity of input and output.

Regarding the type of career advancement you can actually offer, you might consider creating the opportunity for the idea submitter to continue working on their ideas with flex time. based on the work some professors at the University of Michigan have done called “job crafting” which I wrote a little bit about here, This would be a great signal to all employees that you’re interested in allowing employees to drive positive change within their own roles and based on the job crafting literature, this can have some pretty powerful impacts organizationally and drive continued participation as employees would see the idea platform as a way to drive this process. From the Wiser perspective, by doing this, you’re also helping to inspire participants to share ideas that they are passionate about rather than what they might think management wants to hear and thus increasing the caliber of participation rather than simply volume. You can also find a list of non-monetary rewards to incentivize engagement on our resources page. 

Have you read Wiser or do you have other insights to share on what makes a great incentive program? Let me know [email protected] or on twitter @devinmcintire

This blog post is part of a series authored by IdeaScale employees. It showcases how they’re thinking about crowdsourcing and innovation as part of their daily routine. Feel free to ask questions or make comments.

This post is by Devin Mcintire, Innovation Technology Advisor at IdeaScale

Identifying Opportunities for Crowdsourcing in Education

Academia works best when it works together.

Where does crowdsourcing fit in education? The idea of the wisdom of crowds in a calling defined by a teacher at the head of the class can seem contrary. But, in education, there’s a lot of room for crowdsourcing, and it can be a source of innovative ideas.

The Power Of Teamwork

The truth is that educators and professors have been crowdsourcing well before Kickstarter came along. The human mind has always been the most powerful computer, and indeed in some cases, universities and schools are using the crowd for brute force, and often the rewards can be stunning. For example, the philosopher Jeremy Bentham left behind 40,000 pages of untranscribed work, so University College London launched the Transcribe Bentham Project. Anyone can log on and begin typing out the words of a great philosopher, many of which people haven’t read in decades. Other transcription projects let people explore dead languages, or otherwise tap directly into history in a way only academics tend to enjoy, giving a wider audience an appreciation of academic disciplines.

Some are slightly more in the field of open innovation. Professors and doctors around the world are calling on networks of colleagues to help them solve problems as simple as identifying fish or as complex as offering women in the Developing World proper medical care. But in academia, crowdsourcing can be a useful tool for getting work done. But what about the flip-side?

Crowdsourcing improves education.

Crowdsourcing For Students

Another use for crowdsourcing is to help schools figure out what students need. Oddly, one of the earliest “trendy” sites on the internet, before even Facebook, was a crowdsourcing tool, in its own way. Rate My Professor may have gotten a notorious reputation among both students and academics, especially when a professor was issued a “chili pepper” (in other words, students think they’re hot.) But it also offered a valuable, if unfiltered, method for professors to see how students viewed their lessons in real time. It undeniably had quite a bit of noise, in the form of complaining students, compared to signal, but professors have learned that it’s worth listening to students’ opinions.

That’s expanded in other, more official and chili-pepper free, ways. For example, Ucrime is a crowdsourced website that lets college collect reports, determine the responses of their internal police forces, and get data that it might otherwise simply never be able to collect. Others, like Scitable, allow students to ease themselves into writing more advanced research papers, while also improving the quality of papers and giving professors better work to build on in their courses.

Crowdsourcing, in the end, is about achieving the real potential of education; spreading knowledge to everyone. Whether it means directly involving people in history or bringing in both professionals and enthusiastic amateurs to catalog animals or artifacts, or simply improving the way people study, crowdsourcing brings down the barriers between schools and the broader public. It opens the door to everyone in the community and beyond getting involved, learning something, and taking that knowledge with them as they go out in the world to share it. If you’re ready to start teaching beyond the classroom, download our Crowdsourcing in Education white paper.

Why Aren’t You Crowdsourcing?

Last year Gartner published an article entitled “The 5 Most Effective, Least Used Digital Innovation Hacks” which listed crowdsourcing, differentiated funding, differentiated metrics, startup innovation, and formal innovation management. These “hacks” (as they called them) had the greatest potential to improve a company’s capabilities and functions.

Of course, crowdsourcing and innovation management are closely related, but not everyone understands the potential benefits of crowdsourcing and innovation management. It’s one of the reasons that crowdsourcing and innovation management champions must communicate the benefits of such programs.

Here are some of the most commonly cited benefits of crowdsourced innovation management.

Better Ideas. Steven Johnson explored the nature of disruptive and creative ideas that have transformed our society. He noted that the ideas that connect and merge with others are the ones that are more likely to be transformative, powerful, and impact the future of a business. Launching a crowdsourced program allows for those connections to happen and for better ideas to emerge as a result.

Lower Costs. Opening up the boundaries between different disciplines inside or outside of an organization maximizes the value of ideation. Because these programs aren’t limited by one department and people can participate part-time in these creative exercises, crowd innovation programs generally have lower costs than traditional research & development departments.

Viral Marketing. New ideas that make progress generate interest and excitement. If you’re collaborating with employees, they might volunteer to help empower change within an organization. If you’re collaborating with customers, you have the opportunity to turn these changes into marketing campaigns that will build an audience before a new product or process even gets to market.

So why aren’t you crowdsourcing already?

To learn more about the value of crowdsourcing and how to improve your innovation management program, download our infographic on the subject on our resources page.

Managing Expectations in Innovation Management: Part II

expectations in innovation managementOne of the most effective ways to engage the crowd is to demonstrate commitment to turning their ideas into real value and impact. However, this can present some challenges for innovation managers.

Some concerns we have heard from innovation managers:

“I do not want to overpromise what we’re going to do with people’s ideas.”

“What if the ideas are in a focus area we’re not even working in?”

“What if the ideas are for something we’re not currently resourcing or ever intend to resource?”

“What if my program feels threatened by outside ideas interfering with their portfolio?”

“What do we do if a bad idea is gaining support?”

We can address these concerns head-on by setting and managing expectations. Transparency has the added benefit of informing the crowd how best to contribute and helps the whole process stay on track for making an impact.

In these two blog posts, we will discuss five best practices for setting a course for idea implementation and managing expectations along the way.  Last week we focused on engaging stakeholders and experts early and often. This week, we focus on four additional best practices.

Set expectations for the crowd from the beginning.

Engage your stakeholders and experts to decide on the parts of your existing programs that are set in stone, and the areas that are open for fresh ideas.  The firm program priorities form the framework for your campaigns and evaluation criteria. The areas ripe for fresh ideas are eligible to become a campaign problem statement.

  • Be transparent from the beginning about what is firm and what is flexible. Setting expectations from the beginning helps your crowd generate ideas that are relevant to your mission and goal.
  • Define and communicate your criteria, evaluation, and selection process in advance.
  • State your focus area up front. Let the crowd know that you’re in the business of doing XYZ.  Ask them, “What ideas do you have for helping us do this?”
  • Define for your crowd what a feasible idea looks like within your firm constraints.

Recognize that ideas can go down different tracks. 

The ideas can have different tracks and different destinations.  Crowdsourcing can uncover ideas, questions, issues, and approaches you might not have thought of.  Be open to the possibilities of what could happen with a good idea, and take a phased approach.

  • Some ideas may be ready for immediate implementation within your existing programmatic goals, projects, and capabilities.
  • Some ideas may be ready to be piloted or prototyped in order to understand their benefits and the best way to implement them.
  • Some ideas might spark a new direction or approach, and be taken up for consideration for a longer conversation about where your team is going in the future. These might be reserved for discussions of your next strategic plan.
  • Some ideas might be funneled to partners. 

We get to define what implementation looks like.

People want to see something play out in the real world with their ideas. But, a commitment to implement ideas from the crowdsourcing process doesn’t mean that we’re abandoning our current process and replacing it with random suggestions.

Implementation could mean:

  • We’re going to pilot or prototype an idea.
  • The people with the top ideas synthesize the top ideas and present them to the board. Or the person with the top idea gets to present the idea to the Board.
  • Top ideas are featured in a conference or workshop. The submitter would get a prize at the workshop, and the idea gets used in the event exercise.  Or it could turn into recommendations for next year’s ideas.

Always look for a way to extract value from the crowd.

Turn bad ideas into good ideas.

  • Find the positive part(s) of an idea and ask the submitter to build on them with your expertise.
  • Ask them to tell you more to fill in the gaps.
  • Ask for examples, evidence, anecdotes, photos, articles, etc.

This article is a re-post of the co-authored article between Whitney Bernstein, PhD, IdeaScale, and Lynn M. Tveskov, United Way Worldwide.

How Crowdsourcing Innovation Helps Your Team

Why is crowdsourcing right for you?

Many people tend to view crowdsourcing, internal or external, and internal teamwork as either/or propositions; one tends to be the backup for the other. But, in truth, they’re symbiotic, each building on each other. Why?

The More Diverse, The Better

We’ve all heard the stories of overseas marketing disasters, like the Chevy Nova going to Mexico only for the automaker to learn “no va” means “no go” in Spanish. But while they’re funny, they also prove that the broader the perspective on your team, the better your work is.

The reality, though, is that there’s only so many viewpoints that can be in a corporate team, even in the most diverse company. Crowdsourcing allows you to include more perspectives and ideas, to everyone’s benefit. It also means that you’ll be able to tap into more types and styles of creativity, instead of just one approach to the world. Great innovations may be made in labs and meeting rooms, but they’re often inspired in a multitude of different ways.

Everyone’s On Board

Especially with internal crowdsourcing, you can deal with an issue that can crop up; namely, that what seems like a good idea for a small team might be a problem for the wider company. This does need to be balanced with the understanding that “the way we’ve always done things” isn’t a good reason to be against innovation. Companies need to be flexible, and care needs to be taken that tradition doesn’t undermine forward thinking. But if there are practical concerns, they can be found and addressed before they become real-world problems.

Innovation can strike anywhere, so why limit it to the office?


Another useful effect of crowdsourcing is that it offers everyone a sense of ownership, and brings in more commitment to an idea. It’s a lot easier for people to write off even the best idea if they don’t have any skin in the game, but if they’ve offered feedback and ideas, and seen them incorporated, they’re more invested. That sense of ownership can extend well beyond just company loyalty or customer satisfaction, it can form deep emotional roots and spur others to offer more ideas. It’s not just a job or a product; it’s yours, theirs, everyone’s.


The pace of business is only speeding up. Communications tech and ideas like rapid prototyping are quickly becoming industry standard, meaning that a company needs to move more and more quickly when developing new ideas. That’s hard to do in a classical structure, where an idea moves supervisor by supervisor, committee by committee, up the chain. Crowdsourcing makes it easier to both generate more ideas and look at them through many lenses much faster; while the buck needs to stop with somebody, that person will have a better informed set of ideas to pick from.

Crowdsourcing isn’t one size fits all. You’ll need to determine if you want to go internal or external, and how to drive your campaign. But you’ll often find that when solving a thorny problem, or innovating to new concepts, the wisdom of crowds is often a great place to start. To learn more, contact us.

Managing Expectations in Innovation Management

managing expectationsOne of the most effective ways to engage your crowd is to demonstrate commitment to turning their ideas into real value and impact. However, this can present some challenges for innovation managers.

Some concerns we have heard from innovation managers:

“I do not want to overpromise what we’re going to do with people’s ideas.”

“What if the ideas are in a focus area we’re not even working in?”

“What if the ideas are for something we’re not currently resourcing or ever intend to resource?”

“What if my program feels threatened by outside ideas interfering with their portfolio?”

“What do we do if a bad idea is gaining support?”

We can address these concerns head-on by setting and managing expectations. Transparency has the added benefit of informing the crowd how best to contribute and helps keep the whole process on track for making an impact.

In these two blog posts, we will discuss five best practices for setting a course for idea implementation and managing expectations along the way:

  1. Engage experts and stakeholders in the process from start to finish.
  2. Set expectations for the crowd from the beginning.
  3. Recognize that ideas can go down different tracks.
  4. We get to define what implementation looks like.
  5. Always look for a way to extract value from the crowd.

This week we focus on engaging stakeholders and experts early and often. Next week, we will focus on everything else.

Engage stakeholders and experts in the process from start to finish.

The involvement of stakeholders and experts in the open innovation process is central to the success of crowdsourced open innovation.  These key players are needed for:

  • Shaping the problem statement to ensure that a campaign is relevant and ripe for impact.
  • Developing evaluation criteria to ensure that ideas progressing toward implementation are consistent with the organization mission, expectations, and quality of work.
  • Facilitating discussion on the platform to transform early ideas into implementation-ready concepts.

 Crowdsourcing presents stakeholders and experts with a tremendous opportunity and value:

  • Access to an “expanded workforce” to do a lot of research on an issue.
  • Access to input and ideas from intelligent and passionate people with diverse experience.
  • Exposure to unexpected ideas or novel connections that can only arise by engaging people from diverse walks of life and in tangential fields.
  • The opportunity for experts to educate their donor base on the social issue at hand.
  • The opportunity for experts and development team to learn about donor interests or target population needs.

Here are some ways to engage your stakeholders and experts:

  • Loop in the experts from the beginning. Make your objectives clear to them and ask them to help you shape the framework, criteria, and measures for good ideas.  Ask the expert to clarify their mission and process and help build data into the crowdsourcing campaign criteria.
  • Invite stakeholders and experts to serve as moderators. Moderators foster and steer conversations in the right direction. Remind moderators that what typically comes in initially are idea fragments. Moderators help nurture a fully fleshed out concept aligned with our process and approach. Moderators guide the thinking on the platform by asking specific questions, asking for more information to fill in gaps, challenging misguided assumptions, and adding to the ideas in the platform.
  • Stakeholders and experts get the most out the opportunity by approaching the ideas with a sense of curiosity and a readiness to know more. The diversity of the crowd creates ideal conditions for tapping fresh perspectives. It’s fun to see the new insights to come from the crowd.
  • The crowd can serve as an expanded workforce to do a lot of research on an issue. This can be mutually beneficial. The crowd sees they have a direct line to the person who owns the process.  The expert can also loop in colleagues to answer questions or ask the crowd for an idea or solution.

This article is a re-post of the co-authored article between Whitney Bernstein, PhD, IdeaScale, and Lynn M. Tveskov, United Way Worldwide.

Crowdsourcing vs. Open Innovation: What’s the Difference?

Open innovation vs. crowdsourcing can be a tough call.

What’s the difference between crowdsourcing and open innovation? It can feel like a simple question, but it’s a bit more complex than you might expect. Here’s a deeper look at how these two concepts differ.

Crowdsourcing Vs. Open Innovation

The key difference between the two is the audience. With open innovation, you might reach out to your entire company, and sometimes friendly rivals in the same industry, to share ideas and get perspective on something. Crowdsourcing is when you open it up to the public, usually starting with your customer base, to get ideas or to perform tasks. Both can be incredibly powerful, but which is right for which situation?

Who Are The Stakeholders?

It’s always worth starting with who’s got skin in the game. For example, some ideas, like internal process changes, need to be a matter of open innovation, because they can touch many different departments. If, for example, you’re changing how you manufacture something, it’s not just the design team who should weigh in, but the departments handling the nitty-gritty of making things, shipping them, and finding parts.

If you’re consumer-facing, and one of the key stakeholders is your consumers, then crowdsourcing is in the mix. You’re likely getting ideas and comments from your customers anyway, so why not put them to use? By asking for their input, your customers know you’re listening, and that’s crucial to your company’s success.

An idea can come from anywhere.

What’s The Challenge?

Another factor to consider is the challenge you’re trying to overcome. Crowdsourcing takes work when the challenge is abstract or hard to explain outside your industry, so open innovation might make more sense to develop creative solutions. For example, it’s difficult to make international shipping problems or ergonomics fascinating to the wider public, as a rule, although the right explanation can go a long way.

But if it’s a challenge with a hook, or one where your customers will have to regularly deal with the answer you come up with, it’s worth involving outside parties to see what they think. It can be as simple as asking “So, what would you like to see with the next release?” or asking your customers how they use your products. Sometimes you find surprising answers that you hadn’t considered or ancillary markets you want to bring forward.

How Will The Solution Be Used?

Another point is to look at where your ultimate implementation will wind up. That both guides you to other stakeholders in the process and also helps determine from whom you most need the input. Just like you’d never take a product to market without at least a little testing, you need to consider how you’re going to use the end result. If it’s got an impact on others, it’s worth getting their perspective.

Finally, remember that this isn’t an either/or proposition. Some ideas start out with open innovation, and over time it becomes clear that crowdsourcing needs to be used to develop at least one aspect of them. And sometimes crowdsourcing is great for creating the raw idea, but then it needs to be shaped and refined by open innovation. As long as you keep the lines of communication, and identify who the stakeholders are, you’ll be able to deliver great ideas. To get started, join an IdeaScale community.