Faculty Guest Blog: Three Pillars of Successful Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing outsources a task to a crowd in the form of an open call. It can reduce costs and harness a crowd’s knowledge to enhance project flexibility, innovation, and quality.

Different applications of this phenomenon include: crowd funding (e.g., Kiva.org, Kickstarter.com), knowledge contributions (e.g., Wikipedia), citizen science (e.g., NASA’s Stardust@home), microsourcing (e.g., Mechanical Turk), innovation communities (e.g., Dell’s IdeaStorm), and tournament-based crowdsourcing such as TopCoder, Kaggle, and InnoCentive.

In order to conduct effective crowdsourcing, keep the following in mind:

Choose the Right Task. Is the crowd being utilized for its magnitude in labor-intensive tasks or for its skills and capabilities in creative tasks?

Plan for Crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing should be thought of well in advance with budgets, schedules, and specifications taking uncertainties and crowd capabilities into account. This should be done as early as the design and conceptualization stages of projects.

Manage Stakeholders. Multiple stakeholders’ involvement should be managed including the project team, the crowdsourcing players (and platform), and the client of the crowdsourced product.

The benefits of crowdsourcing are truly promising, but are best realized within the right conditions and proper management.  Poorly planned initiatives are likely to translate into wasted time for an organization.

Dorit Nevo is an associate professor at the Rensselaer Lally School of Management.