Brain power

New framework for smarter crowdsourcing

Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.

Crowdsourcing has been one of the most popular forms of open innovation ever since James Surowiecki popularized the notion in his bestseller The Wisdom of Crowds in 2004.  The ability to tap into a global talent pool, and only pay for results, has proven enticing for many, and data suggests that it’s the most common form of open innovation today, with platforms such as Innocentive growing to provide a wide range of challenges to offer its vast community of solvers.

Despite the pay-for-results nature of the process appearing to make it an open goal, it’s no guarantee of success, with many failing to achieve expectations.  New research1 from Carnegie Mellon proposes a framework to help deliver crowdsourcing more effectively.

“Crowdsourcing can be an invaluable source of innovation, but only if the right type of crowd is used to address the right type of problem,” the researchers say. “Our framework helps managers match the right type of crowd with a problem of appropriate scope and complexity.”

Multiple approaches

Central to their work is the notion that there is no one fixed way to approach crowdsourcing, and the researchers were able to identify three core types:

  • Search crowds, which are typically most effective when the problem is well defined and has a relatively small scope.  It’s an approach that sees seekers connected with solvers, and requires firms to provide a clear description of the task, and the right incentives to motivate participants.
  • Wired crowds, which typically involve more complex problems that require a variety of different expertise.  These tend to be longer projects that require collaboration rather than relying on one person to provide the solution.  For success, the researchers urge firms to provide detailed guidelines and regular feedback on the group’s work.
  • Crowd teams, are then used on problems that require a prototype in order to tackle large and complex problems.  It’s an approach where firms need to encourage bursts of activities rather than relying on a continuous stream of interaction.

“Using crowdsourcing for innovation isn’t always easy,” the authors conclude. “Our framework helps managers understand how to use crowds most effectively so they can unlock the power of smart crowds for their firms.”

Article source: New Framework For Smarter Crowdsourcing.

Header image source: Gerd Altmann on Pixabay, Public Domain.


  1. Riedl, C., Seidel, V. P., Woolley, A. W., & Kane, G. C. (2020). Make Your Crowd Smart. MIT Sloan Management Review. Reprint #61324.
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Adi Gaskell

I'm an old school liberal with a love of self organizing systems. I hold a masters degree in IT, specializing in artificial intelligence and enjoy exploring the edge of organizational behavior. I specialize in finding the many great things that are happening in the world, and helping organizations apply these changes to their own environments. I also blog for some of the biggest sites in the industry, including Forbes, Social Business News, Social Media Today and, whilst also covering the latest trends in the social business world on my own website. I have also delivered talks on the subject for the likes of the NUJ, the Guardian, Stevenage Bioscience and CMI, whilst also appearing on shows such as BBC Radio 5 Live and Calgary Today.

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