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Using the crowd: an exploration of conditions for crowdsourcing in the idea generation process

Westhoff, Anneke (2009) Using the crowd: an exploration of conditions for crowdsourcing in the idea generation process.

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Abstract:Management Summary The motive for this research is the wish of Hay Group to help their clients to improve their innovative capability. A Global Survey, carried out by McKinsey, showed that 70 percent of corporate leaders list innovation in their top three priorities for driving growth. However only 25 percent of them think their innovative capability is adequate. Hay Group wants to help her clients to narrow this gap. As idea generation is the first step in any innovation process, Hay Group wants to gain more insight in ways to structure and improve this step. In the past only a few employees with a lot of expertise were involved in the innovation process. Surowiecki (2004) found that under the right circumstances, groups are remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the smartest people in the group. According to Surowiecki (2004) organisations must involve a large group of people to solve a problem. Crowdsourcing describes a new work method that outsources the task of finding creative solutions to an undefined, generally large group of people or community. The organisation posts a problem online and everybody can offer solutions to the problem, which is also called an open call for proposals. Hay Group wants to know how crowdsourcing can be used in an effective way for generating new ideas. This leads to the main research question: Which conditions make crowdsourcing an effective idea generation process? As little is written about crowdsourcing it is not possible to find conditions for crowdsourcing in the literature (Howe, 2008; Brabham, 2008b), therefore this study is explorative. However, there is much written about another type of external idea generation, namely the lead user method (Von Hippel 1994, Lüthje, 2004). In order to derive the conditions for crowdsourcing, the first step of this study was identifying the important aspects of the lead user method. Since crowdsourcing is related to idea generation, for which creativity is needed, also literature of creativity was used. By combining literature of the lead user method and creativity a theoretical model for crowdsourcing was developed. The next step was the set‐up and execution of the case studies on crowdsourcing participants, intermediaries and assigning companies. In total eighteen interviews were held with people from Battle of Concepts, Toplossing, Rabobank, (potential) participants of Battle of concepts and participants of Toplossing. The interviews and the documentation of the organisations made it possible to develop an empirical model. A comparison of the theoretical and empirical model resulted in conditions that seem worth pursuing for the success of crowdsourcing. The results of this study showed that there are two types of conditions relevant for the output of crowdsourcing, necessary and ‘nice to have’‐conditions. First the necessary conditions will be discussed. For generating ideas of high quality it is necessary to start with a clearly defined problem. This means that the problems should be defined specifically and to the point and the problem should be clear for everyone. In addition it is a necessary condition to have participants with creative‐thinking skills, expertise and people who are intrinsically motivated. Finally an organisation must have sufficient resources. Crowdsourcing requires significant time, so the organisation must be able to provide that. Furthermore the website should be user friendly and working properly. If one of these conditions is absent, ideas of high quality cannot be generated. Besides the necessary conditions there are some conditions which are not required to get ideas of high quality, but which can have a positive influence on the quality. While intrinsic motivation is a necessary condition, this study showed that extrinsic motivation is a ‘nice to have’‐condition. When participants get a monetary reward or recognition they are willing to put more effort in working out the solution. Additionally when the assigning company gives some information about the problem and the context of the organisation the ideas will be of higher quality than when an 4/79 assigning company does not give background information. Hereby it is important that the background information does not include guiding instructions. Clearly formulated selection criteria will help participants understand what kind of solution the organisation is looking for. Next to that an organisation should evaluate the ideas according to selection criteria, since otherwise motivation of the participants can decrease, which can lead to less ideas of high quality. Therefore a fair evaluation process with good selection criteria can improve the quality of ideas and can be seen as a ‘nice to have’‐condition. A project team that consists of people with expertise on the topic and knowledge of the organisation and industry are also a ‘nice‐to‐have’‐condition as the selected ideas will better fit the organisation. Finally, when an organisation is not only looking for a good idea, but also for a solution that will be integrated in the organisation, it has to be sure that there is support of the management during the process and that the mindset of employees is changed from not‐invented‐here to proudly‐foundelsewhere. Finally the problem owner should be involved during the process. These conditions will not influence the quality of ideas, but influence the integration of the idea in the organisation. Therefore they are ‘nice to have’‐conditions. Apart from the conditions there are some considerations concerning the appropriateness for crowdsourcing problems. Problems for which organisation specific information is necessary to solve are not suited. Despite the fact that this research was focused on the generation of high quality ideas, it was possible to find other benefits of crowdsourcing for organisations. For example, to provide insights in customers and trends and crowdsourcing can be used for labour market communication and PR.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Hay Group
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:85 business administration, organizational science
Programme:Business Administration MSc (60644)
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