Crowdsourcing is a great way for an organization to generate external input, particularly when it faces a new challenge. Benfits include tapping in to specific areas of interest or expertise that don’t exist within your own organization; getting input from people who don’t conform to the company culture and mindset; in short, input from anyone you wouldn’t choose or could not afford to put on the company payroll fulltime. Yet if you have never utilized this technique before, it’s likely that you will have a number of questions to ask first. Here are five simple ones that you should definitely get clear answers to before you set out on the crowdsourcing path.

 

1. Who is your crowd?

It’s a very inclusive term, isn’t it, a “crowd”? In reality, a crowd is just a lot of people in one place, and that doesn’t really tell you anything. So perhaps the question you should ask a crowdsourcing platform before any other is simply this, “who is your crowd?” What are the characteristics and demographics of the individuals that make up their network of would-be problem-solvers?

“Every crowdsourcing platform does indeed have a different crowd, and depending on your challenge or what you are trying to achieve, there is the right crowd, and there is the wrong crowd. So, for obvious reasons, before you get going on a platform, make sure they have the crowd that you are looking for”, warns Bradley Spungeon, a project manager at Phd Kingdom and Origin Writings.

Crowdsourcing platforms are often identifiable by profession, age profile, geographic location, and a host of other criteria. Perform adequate research to ascertain the best platform for your particular business and challenge

2. Does my problem or challenge need to be broken down?

Once again, if this is your first attempt at crowdsourcing, you will not necessarily understand the best way to set out your challenge or problem. It is therefore important to ask the full-timers at any candidate crowdsourcing platform whether you would benefit from breaking your challenge into more easily digestible chunks.

As a simplistic example, your challenge could relate to increasing overall revenue, but this is a huge question that could generate very wide ranging attemps to deliver a solution.  Or it could appear to be such a demanding challenge it would generate few ‘solutions’ worth looking at. In this example, break the challenge down into your different revenue streams, and set a challenge in relation to each one to get more actionable recommendations.

“An overly large task will intimidate. And intimidation leads to reticence to get involved. You need people involved,” warns Carly Sixsmith, a business writer at Academicbrits and Nextcoursework.

3. What are the best ways to use your platform?

You may still be unsure of the best way to approach your challenge, so actively engage the platform as to how they can offer a solution. Remember that crowdsourcing is not a replacement for outsourcing, instead is it a means of garnering additional creativity. You are making use of additional problem-solving capacity with can be utilised as actionable solutions for your business.

Most crowdsourcing platforms will be able to give you objective data relating to similar challenges. For example, how much quicker was a similar problem solved through the use of a crowdsourcing platform in comparison to using a business’s internal resources. You must perform internal research too to understand the cost and time constraints on solving the challenge yourself. Only with this information can you make the decision to proceed.

4. How do you deal with matters of confidentiality?

The issue of confidentiality is an integral one for businesses. No business wants its internal machinations to be public knowledge, so this is an extremely pertinent question to ask. Most platforms will have the capability to open private challenges that are accessible only to a pre-defined demographic.

Similarly, they will have functions which allow for the disclosure of information that is controlled firmly by you, the business at the heart of the challenge. There is always an element of risk because you are seeking an open solution, but platforms deal with this issue as part of their USP, so expect high-levels of sensitivity.

5. What are the possible reward structures?

People join crowdsourcing platforms for any number of reasons, but it is likely that towards the top of the list will be ‘financial gain’. It is therefore important to understand what rewards are effective in securing the type of solution you need. What carrot should you dangle?

A more complex aspect of this is the issue of IP rights (intellectual property). In offering a solution that deals with this type of concern, it is important to understand who holds the rights, and what you may need to offer in exchange. Often rights are transferred on the receipt of the agreed reward, though there are other approaches.

Once again, this is part of each crowdsourcing platform’s USP (unique selling points), so actionable solutions will be available. It is vitally important to understand these basic principles before you get underway.

With answers to these five basic, yet fundamental questions, you are ready to launch your crowdsourcing challenge. Innovation will be one step away.

Would you like to share with the Crowdsourcing Week community either some insight from your first use of an open innovation challenge, or maybe what the nature of your first challenge is likely to be? We’d like to hear from you.