Crowdsourcing: Boosting Your Innovation Process

Crowdsourcing can call upon the intelligence and creativity of multitudes of internet users who stimulate innovation. By creating a call for projects or ideas via a crowdsourcing platform, companies can discover new ideas for products and services. However, the challenge is to capitalize on the information your company can receive from a crowdsourcing initiative.

The goal of a crowdsourcing project is to utilize resources outside a company in order to generate innovative ideas. The creativity drawn from this process can be used to bolster a company's innovation process. 

"Many times, companies rely on incremental innovation. But to create real added-value, they often need to discover a disruptive innovation. Crowdsourcing is one option that can provide companies with such innovative power." explains Cédric Chaffois, who published his thesis on the subject of crowdsourcing.

Overcoming the challenges of internal resistance

Crowdsourcing has many interesting advantages. It is relatively cheap and easy to access. A mass of internet users can be much more effective at churning up new ideas than an internal brainstorming session. "The issue is that successfully using crowdsourcing tools requires a certain maturity and understanding within a company. It's essential to explain to your marketing and R&D departments why you're calling on external resources. They have to see crowdsourcing as a complementary resource and not as direct competition." underlines Cédric.

A crowdsourced idea still requires internal resources. There is a great deal of analysis and work to be done in order to go from the initial project brief to choosing and capitalizing on a high potential idea. "Even the most incredible outsourced idea is worth nothing without the adequate internal development and commercialization." adds Cédric.

How to polish a diamond in the rough

Cédric shares with us five tips to keep in mind when considering a crowdsourcing initiative.

  • 1 - Collaborate closely with your chosen crowdsourcing platform
    "How you formulate your question will greatly impact the success of your crowdsourcing initiative. To motivate creative internet users, you have translate your marketing or development problem into an interesting question that will spark their curiosity."

  • 2 - Consider intellectual property
    "You're asking a question on the internet, which means this information will most likely be freely accessible. This can expose sensitive company information and intellectual property to outsiders. Make sure your company clearly defines the boundaries that will control the sharing of information.

  • 3 - Crowdsourcing is a skill
    "To get optimal results, as with any service, crowdsourcing requires a specific set of skills and they don't come for free. There are specialized crowdsourcing platforms that have the expertise to help accelerate your learning curve. It's worth paying the right price for quality service. Crowdsourcing initiatives can cost anywhere from 5,000 to 50,000 euros. The key is to chose a team and service that meets your requirements."

  • 4 - Crowdsourcing is not always objective
    "The users who answer your call for ideas are not necessarily an evenly distributed sample of internet users. As a result, there can be bias in their responses. It's essential to have a marketing or R&D team capable of thinking critically about any given crowdsourcing result. These initiatives can indicate trends. Some crowdsourcing initiatives call upon creative professionals or talented artists, which can also provide companies with ideas that are ahead of the curve. But you have to be able to recognize and analyze the value of a new idea."

  • 5 - Remember it is a diamond in the rough
    "Don't assume the ideas you receive will be as developed and finalized as a concept proposed by a specialized firm. Crowdsourcing concepts are almost never finalized products. Their advantage lies in the potential for originality. The real challenge though is how you develop an original idea. Sometimes this means combining it with other ideas."

Examples of crowdsourcing platforms 

Math and science

  • Innocentive (R&D, mathematics and fundamental research)
  • Ninesigma

Marketing, design and communication

  • 99 designs
  • Zooppa

Creativity, media and design     

  • Jovoto
  • Eyeka

Dedicated brand platforms

  • ID Storm (Dell)
  • BMW Future Lab
  • My Starbucks Idea