The Complex Relationship Between Crowdsourcing and Innovation

Innovation and Crowdsourcing are complex topics by nature, each with their own set of unique challenges; for insight professionals, this means working out how to carefully navigate both topics when they arise. Taking them on their own isn’t too much of an issue, but if we are looking to use crowdsourcing as a way of ideating and developing an innovation, then that’s when things start to get a bit tricky.

The Trouble with Crowdsourcing and Innovation

First of all, crowdsourcing is a method that outsources a task generally assigned to a professional to a large group of customers and consumers in the form of an open call. So they participate in research that identifies innovation and brings it to life. There have been many positive impacts on crowdsourcing on innovation such as greater opportunity identification and attainment, but opportunity isn’t always realised to the best of its potential. There are also a few drawbacks that make us really think about whether this method is worth the insights it produces.

  1. What about the data security and protection of the participants and the company? With nothing confidential, how can you promise that the safety of their personal data?
  2. Participants are more prone to derailment and tangents when chatting together, thus we sometimes don’t actually get any answers at all because they’ve gone off on a different topic.
  3. They don’t know how to contribute properly, thus allowing poor quality data to filter through the cracks and flood the datasets generated.
  4. They are not experts in your field, they do not know the precision required to keep the business afloat, nor the context in which your business is thriving, they can lead you in the wrong direction at whim and they won’t even realise they’re doing it. An even worse scenario would be that they think they know all about the landscape you’re operating in, and actively if still unintentionally derail your entire operation with their opinions.

Mitigating the Risk

The first issue to mitigate is consumer desire vs. consumer need. With crowdsourcing research panels primarily made up of strangers rather than professionals, while they can complete tasks and problem-solve to the best of their ability they don’t have the knowledge to take advantage of each research opportunity like insight professionals do. While this sometimes leads to innovative ideas that wouldn’t have been discovered otherwise, most of the time, it takes a while for those ideas to emerge as fully-dependable insights.

The Complex Relationship

When crowdsourcing innovation, there are a number of unique challenges insight professionals must overcome, or at least be aware of when entering into this complex relationship. It’s a lot of work, but there are a myriad of benefits to it when implemented in the right way; taking a look at success stories like Apple, Lego, and Dell, allow us to understand, firstly how it can be achieved on a long-term basis, and the impacts on the organisations who utilise this tricky methodology.

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