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When we speak of crowdsourcing, we often highlight the advantages produced by a community with all the talent available around an organization, and by reinforcing connections with its various stakeholders.

Both these needs become even more relevant in a context like the current one, where organizations are forced to innovate as a way of adapting to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, internally and in relation to their market, as well as their ecosystem of collaborators or other collectives.

In this sense, the idea of turning to the masses, and especially to the wisdom of the masses, can help in the endeavor of sharing solutions.

The use of channels or a corporate community where crowdsourcing can be applied with employees or other collaborators, offers advantages like large-scale collection of ideas at a low cost, at any time and from any place; or co-creation among community members. Not to mention the creation of a sense of belonging to the community among its members.

In contrast, crowdsourcing tends to be accused of evils such as the attainment of many ideas of little value, or the need to invest an enormous amount of time and resources to process and evaluate such ideas.

Having said that, generating new (good) ideas is one of the crucial parts of any corporate innovation program. In this article, we will see how aligning a crowdsourcing strategy with the organization’s objectives, and–above all–obtaining participation from crowdsourcing that results in ideas that potentially give rise to a competitive return.

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When communities generate ideas with purpose and motivation

When a crowdsourcing process is launched with employees, or other collectives in an organization’s ecosystem, it is first essential to understand that crowdsourcing is based on listening and gathering voluntary ideas.

On this basis, working on motivation (to obtain ideas) and alignment (to give them direction) will be paramount, for the organization itself and for its participants.

  • The organization will try to communicate and make participants understand what, how and, above all, why people are asked to participate, so that the crowdsourcing process is not a futile effort.
  • Participants can be chosen from only some profiles, or can be the total of people the organization has access to, and will also need to find the motivation (again, why) for participating.
A crowdsourcing process takes advantage of digital connections between individuals, placing individual and collective talent at the center of the action. 

Organization motivators

1. Choose the right challenges

Although it may seem obvious, when launching and sharing a crowdsourcing process with a community of collaborators, there should be a purpose behind the process and strategic thinking regarding the challenges open to participation.

Acting as a community, along with their various stakeholders, helps many organizations ride out the current moment of uncertainty

2. Obtain ideas with a focus

To achieve this, it will be important to define how the organization communicates the challenge among participants. Convey objectives and the profile of solutions sought using language that is clear (not necessarily simple) and easy to understand, as would be expected in a process that seeks to make participation in innovation democratic. For this purpose, the organization may also provide chosen collectives with materials and resources that contextualize their participation in the challenge and, above all, frame its significance and meaning.

3. Access the right participants and knowledge

Selecting participants (the totality or a segment, as mentioned above) will be another task prior to this type of exercise. An organization may wish to extend participation to all its collaborators, to obtain greater diversity and, a priori, more disruptive ideas; or to narrow down participation to specific areas of expertise or niches, using very precise themes.


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4. And–above all–obtain ideas that generate returns

Therefore, when an organization defines a challenge, it must convey the characteristics and viability (in terms of deadlines, resources…) of possible solutions to the crowdsourcing community.

Participant motivation

1. Incentives for participation

The organization should reflect on how to engage users who are predisposed to participation in the project (who) and design a system of incentives (again, why, here from the user’s point of view) to reinforce motivation for those who already have it, and attract those who don’t.

Motivations may vary, going from a genuine urge to solve a challenge, to the desire of obtaining visibility within the organization, professional promotion, or wanting to win a material prize that may be associated with the challenge.

According to this article published by the Harvard Business Review, different motivations produce different results. There is what we refer to as intrinsic motivation (offering a solution to a problem) and its opposite, extrinsic motivation (winning a prize). The former tends to be associated with ideas with greater focus and more quality, while a desire for more visibility and recognition within the community tends to produce more discreet results.

A good crowdsourcing exercise should combine intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in the community: genuinely seek a solution to a challenge, while also obtaining a reward for it.

2. Listen to ideas (and evaluate them)

There must be a top-down feedback process for ideas and other contributions by participants in the community. All proposals shared thanks to crowdsourcing should receive a response from the promoters of the process. And, insofar as possible, the commitment to evaluate them. It is also recommended that feedback be public and visible in the entire community, to increase motivation (visibility, ego, sense of belonging) among authors of ideas.

3. Above all, participants need to know they can be change makers.

As we have seen, calls to extrinsic motivation, such as a material prizes or professional promotion, are important because they provide a sense of belonging; a win-win situation for winners and organizers, who benefit from their ideas. But most important of all is intrinsic motivation: knowing one is a fundamental piece in the organization’s transformation (along with what that may entail personally and professionally), and seeing one’s idea become reality.

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