Crowdsourcing Corporate Innovation

The growing prominence of crowdsourcing reflects how effective it is at aligning services with consumer needs. Whether you’re ordering an Uber, or browsing Wikipedia, we all now benefit from the “crowd economy” in one way or another. However, many decision makers still do not realise how valuable an idea crowdsourcing platform can be when applied within their own organizations.

Learning from the Best

To get the most out of your innovation endeavors, it’s important to have a firm understanding of the methodologies your implementing, how they developed over time, and what problems they are best suited for solving. To this end, we’ve created dedicated methodology pages to equip you with the contextual knowledge you’ll need to take your innovation initiative to a whole new level.  


Defining Crowdsourcing

As the name suggests, crowdsourcing means ‘outsourcing to the crowds’ and leveraging their wealth of knowledge to achieve business objectives. Crowdsourcing projects can target both internal and external participants via questionnaires, competitions, promotions, and other methods. Because of this, crowdsourcing can serve as a key component of open and internal innovation.

The History of Crowdsourcing

The term ‘crowdsourcing’, coined by Wired magazine authors Mark Robinson and Jeff Howe, first entered the public domain in 2005 (a time when the idea crowdsourcing platform was a relatively new concept). However, it could be argued that the practice goes back to 1714, when the British government offered a cash prize to the citizen who could come up with the best solution to measure a ship’s longitudinal position. It’s also believed that similar competitions were held in Spain as far back as the 16th century.

The first truly major impact crowdsourcing had on shaping the modern world took place in 1884. In this year, the editors of the original Oxford English Dictionary placed an open appeal in local newspapers, asking people to submit definitions for as many words as possible – no matter how obscure. This tactic helped expand the dictionary and – subsequently – the lexicons of English speakers worldwide.

The enormous potential of crowdsourcing within the business realm became more widely recognized in the early 20th century. In 1916, the American peanut company Planters launched the very first logo crowdsourcing competition on record. A fourteen year old child was the winner – providing the design for the character ‘Mr. Peanut’ which continues to be used today. 

The business crowdsourcing trend picked up steam towards the end of the century. In 1979, Nina and Tim Zagat demonstrated another lucrative application of crowdsourcing with their “Zagat” guide – a compendium of crowdsourced reviews of restaurants throughout New York City. The publication that emerged from the “Zagat” would eventually be sold to Google in 2011 for $150 million!

The paradigm-shifting arrival of the internet in the 1990s meant that crowdsourcing could now be practiced and managed with unprecedented ease. Sites like Wikipedia and iStock allowed users worldwide to contribute their knowledge efficiently, as well as find a wider audience for their creations. As a result, the theory and practice of crowdsourcing steadily became an increasingly predominant subject of analysis. Perhaps the seminal work analyzing the role of crowdsourcing in the business realm is James Surowiecki’s ‘The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few’ – a comprehensive work that details why large groups of people are often more adept at innovative problem solving than elite groups. 

Today, across all corporate and government sectors, the role of crowdsourcing for producing disruptive, ROI-generating ideas is more central than ever before. In 2014, a study found that 85% of the biggest global brands had used crowdsourcing methodologies over the last decade, and that they were three times more likely to use a dedicated idea crowdsourcing platform than other companies. It is this trend, and the custom-configuration demands that have arisen with it, that has helped inform the development of Qmarkets’ crowdsourcing software over the years.

Discover how the Qmarkets platform
can help you harness the enormous potential
of idea crowdsourcing for your enterprise!

Crowdsourcing Pioneers

  • Nina Zagat – together with her husband Tim, Nina compiled the groundbreaking “Zagat” survey in 1979 – a collection of crowdsourced reviews for restaurants in New York City, which would later become the expanded Zagat publication. Google would purchase Zagat in 2011 for $150 million.

  • Henry Chesbrough – who invented the term ‘open innovation’ and wrote the acclaimed book ‘Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology’
  • Lior Zoref – who has written extensively on how crowdsourcing has become an integral part of the ‘social media age’.
  • Eric Moseley – whose book ‘The Crowdsourced Performance Review’ explores how the concept can leverage the power of social recognition, as well improve performance management
  • James Surowiecki – author of the seminal book The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few, which explores how large groups of individuals are often more adept at fostering innovation and problem solving than small, elite groups. 

Methodologies & Approaches

 There are a variety of ways that enterprise customers can harness crowdsourcing to overcome key business challenges. It should be noted that an idea crowdsourcing platform presents a great way to facilitate each of these approaches.

  • Microtasks: These crowdsourcing campaigns target specific groups with small-scale tasks – such as data validation, image-identification surveys, translations, etc. This can serve as a powerful way to break up large-scale innovation objectives into smaller, more manageable parts. 
  • Macrotasks – These involve harnessing the wisdom of the crowd for larger-scale, less-defined innovation objectives. Macrotasks could involve launching customer questionnaires to discover great ideas for new products, or approaching startups and think tanks to gain unique solutions to business challenges.
  • Innovation Competitions: This approach can serve as an efficient way to incentivize participation in crowdsourcing projects. Participants will have a restricted amount of time to submit their ideas in response to a given challenge. The participant(s) who submits the idea with the most potential could be awarded with a prize or the chance to collaborate in order to bring their vision to life. An idea crowdsourcing platform can prove invaluable when it comes to ensuring all competition submissions are assessed according to key criteria.
  • Distributed Knowledge Tasks: Designed to rapidly illicit knowledge or insights from target groups, distributed knowledge tasks are typically facilitated on forums and wikis. It is a useful strategy enterprises can employ to create a database of aggregate knowledge from all departments. However, it can also be deployed as part of an open innovation strategy – used to pool together knowledge from specialist external sources in order to inform product or service development. 

Corporate Crowdsourcing
and its Key Challenges

Engaging & incentivizing a large audience to tackle your unique challenges

Facilitating effective collaboration and idea development for your audience

Ensuring the most valuable submissions are identified & implemented

Protecting intellectual property & maintaining confidentiality during crowdsourcing initiatives

What The Experts Say...

"Crowdsourcing can help brands that need a new approach to solve a business problem when traditional tools are too slow or team thinking is blocked with 'traditional' solutions."

"Senior executives almost unanimously (94%) say that people and corporate culture are the most important drivers of innovation."

“Organizations must actively mine and manage the collective wisdom and experiences in the firm’s ecosystem to thrive in an increasingly competitive market.”

"Nothing will propel a company further than a culture of innovation: An atmosphere that inspires employees, every hour they're at work, to seek out innovative opportunities."

"In many organizations, there is an explicit goal of innovating in a way that is culturally inclusive to engage employees as well as benefit from their collective brainpower."

Achieve Your Strategic Business Goals
With Corporate Crowdsourcing

Realizing that your company needs to launch a major innovation initiative is one thing. Getting a clear picture of what initiative will achieve the highest ROI is quite another. You’ll need to gain input from wide-ranging sources to discover groundbreaking ideas and areas where improvements can be made. Failing to do so could alienate your customers and staff, and put your company at risk of disruption.

This is where crowdsourcing comes to the rescue. With an idea crowdsourcing platform, you can channel expertise from multiple sources, and allow participants to pose creative solutions to your innovation challenges. Using a crowdsourcing platform is also a great way to reach out to employees, customers, and other key stakeholders, and let them know that their opinions are valued. 

Employee Suggestion Box

By establishing your crowdsourcing platform as a suggestion box, you can enable employees to contribute concepts for new products and services, as well as process improvements.

Crowdsourced Co-Creation

Involve clients, partners, and other external stakeholders in your product & services R&D planning. This can be achieved via crowdsourcing initiatives where these stakeholders take part in co-creation engagements.

Continuous Improvement

By using crowdsourcing tools, you can reveal efficient new ways to cut costs, boost performance levels, and streamline workflow processes company wide.

Continuous Improvement Practices - customer experience

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Resounding Accolades

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Read G2's 2019 Fall Grid Report for Idea Management Software

Read Gartner’s 2016 Market Guide for Innovation Management Solutions

Read Forrester Wave™: Innovation Management Solutions, 2016

Read MWD Advisors' report on Qmarkets’ packaged approach to innovation, 2018

Read the Info-Tech vendor landscape “Innovation Management Solutions” report

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