More Than Ideas ‘ Crowdsourcing for Insight

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More Than Ideas ‘ Crowdsourcing for Insight

By Sean Holbert, EVP & Client Relations

During our recent webinar, Objects in Mirror are Closer Than They Appear, Kevin Lonnie and I discussed some new technology and methodologies that are starting to impact research. At the end of our presentation, we polled the audience to see what they were most interested in learning about. Based on the discussion, Crowdsourcing was the top response ‘ so here we go. Let’s talk more about Crowdsourcing in research!

Crowdsourcing, at its core, is a natural extension of research. Jeff Howe coined the term back in 2006, calling crowdsourcing, ‘an open call to people who are most fit to perform tasks, solve complex problems and contribute with the most relevant and fresh ideas.’ Our job as researchers has always been to help organizations solve complex problems and to provide relevant and fresh insights, yet crowdsourcing hasn’t really been embraced by the research community’yet.

Part of the reason is that the most cited examples of crowdsourcing focus only on the ‘fresh ideas’ part of the definition and not as much on problem solving. My Starbucks Idea and iStockphoto are among the most cited crowdsourcing success stories. However, the end game of these programs is generating many new ideas. The ultimate development and success of those ideas lies in someone else’s hands.

Imagine if, after conducting a study on naming a new product, you presented senior management with 20 possible names. You’d be thrown out of the room, not given the clich??d ‘seat at the table.’ So how do we adapt this concept to our goals as researchers?

One solution vs. Many ideas
In order to make crowdsourcing a successful research tool, we need to take advantage of the creative, collaborative, and iterative nature of crowdsourcing, but need to go beyond an ideation session. We need to arrive at a well-developed solution. This means empowering participants to not only share new ideas, but to fine tune those ideas, vote on others’ ideas, and work together to arrive at one solution.

Less is more
This begins by framing the challenge. Just as we do in all of our other research, we need a clearly defined objective before launching a crowdsourcing study. If you present a detailed and structured challenge, you will get fewer unique ideas, but you will get a lot more depth and refinement to those ideas. If you present a broad, loose structure, you will get far more unique ideas, but not the same amount of depth and detail. Both approaches can be useful, depending on your needs, but be sure to keep this in mind as you match your challenge to your primary goal.

Healthy competition
Crowdsourcing is a team effort and adding a competitive element to any team venture is worthwhile. Remember, we aren’t just looking for a lot of ideas, but for one great idea. So there have to be winners and losers along the way. Don’t shy away from that; embrace it. Competition is extremely motivating to your participants and drives them to develop a general idea further. The premise is that not all ideas are created equal ‘ some are better than others and we want the best. So reward the best. Include a leaderboard or a bonus incentive to a small set of ‘winners.’ Make sure you announce your winners to the entire group. Rewarding and recognizing good ideas will lead to great solutions.

These are just a few tips for adapting crowdsourcing into your research world. You can learn more about the process on our CrowdWeaving page at