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09 Jun 2016

“Crowdsourcing”, yes… but you’ve got to know the drill

Crowdsourcing refers to the simultaneous use of intelligence, creativity and know-how of a large number of people – the “crowd” – on the web. These requests are initiated via a call for project via an internet platform. The ambition: improve the firm’s innovation capabilities to support its business and marketing development. Because regardless of the industry, in a context of cut-throat competition, crowdsourcing happens to be an unlimited source of innovation. Let’s zoom on the common pitfalls.

Crowdsourcing consists in the acquisition of external resources to generate novel ideas. These pioneering projects then come in support to the entire innovation process, and bring in the creativity and originality that it may sometimes lack.

“Too frequently, innovations are incremental, while a rupture would be necessary to generate value. Such a rupture may be induced by a crowdsourcing approach”, explains Dr. Cédric Chaffois, author of a thesis published on the topic in 2015.

Based in Hong-Kong since early 2016, he is currently head of the sales department for the ASEAN region at Carlsberg.

Transferring the crowdsourcing mindset to your teams

“The biggest interest of crowdsourcing is the swift access, at moderate costs, to a large pool of innovative ideas, generated by very creative internet users, while the resources allocated to brainstorming techniques in firms are often low. However, as Dr. Cédric Chaffois qualifies, managing a successful crowdsourcing campaign requires some determination and experience in regards to the process.”

Therefore, one pre-requisite is to explain the in and out of a crowdsourcing campaign to the marketing and business development departments of the firm so that the employees affected by the initiative do not perceive it as a competing, but instead as a complementary one. Similarly, securing a pool of both financial and human resources is essential to lead the project to its end. Therefore, in two months’ time, from the preliminary brief to the choice of the most promising concepts, an ongoing analysis of the ideas that emanate from the crowd is essential.

“Undoubtedly, even the brightest “outsourced” ideas are worth nothing if its commercial and operational implementation are not up to the mark”. Hence the following advices:

Moving from raw materials to gold nuggets

  • The brand – platform pair must interact ahead of the project. The success of a campaign is determined to a large extent by the way a problem is presented to the crowd. In order to efficiently address creative people, one must translate a marketing issue into a compelling question that will spark curiosity and motivation. Customizing language and phrasing the problem in an enticing way is essential.
  • Do not expect the “raw” idea generated within a couple of days to be as advanced as a concept developed within a dedicated agency. A concept that emanates from the crowd is (almost) never completed, but is potentially more original, and is thus more valuable. The proper execution of the idea, and sometimes its combination with other ideas thanks to resources internal to the organization, is essential to make the most of it.
  • Achieving optimization in the crowdsourcing process requires practice.  For that reason, dedicated crowdsourcing platforms will be able to share their expertise with you and boost your learning curve. The price will be dictated by the size and quality of the team. Prices range from 5,000€ to 50,000€ depending of the campaigns and its options.
  • The crowd has nothing to do with the representative sample of a survey institute. Biases may intervene with the results, and a critical insight from the marketing and R&D departments will always be necessary. However, the emerging topics or trends are as many potential future commercial successes, especially when the crowd is made of random individuals and future consumers, but also of professionals from the creative industry or talented artists”.

Some crowdsourcing platforms


  • Innocentive (R&D, mathematics, fundamental research)
  • Ninesigma


  • 99 designs
  • Zooppa


  • Jovoto
  • Eyeka


  • ID Storm (Dell)
  • BMW future Lab
  • My Starbucks idea