Hearing the cheer of the crowd

The modern consumer is keen to be more than a passive recipient of goods and services. Social media, web 2.0 and more have empowered customers so that they share their opinions with other consumers online, offer feedback to corporations and through crowdsourcing schemes may even be asked for their expertise, ideas and sometimes financial backing by those companies.

There have been many examples during the last decade or so of organisations that have turned to the crowd for assistance, perhaps in solving a problem that will lead to a better product for the people who help and others, perhaps in backing financially a novel invention or book and allowing the organisation or individual to bring it to market. Writing in the International Journal of Technology Marketing, researchers in Finland consider the drivers that lead members of the public, the crowd, to participate in such activities and provide insights for those who wish to use crowdsourcing for their own ends, and for the greater good.

Miia Kosonen and Kaisa Henttonen of the School of Business, at Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland, explain that members of the public, acting essentially en masse, can provide organisations with valuable knowledge and new ideas in a very cost-effective way. “However, while existing research has focused on the users and the general characteristics of crowdsourcing, there is still a lack of understanding of how the hosting organisation should organise and govern crowdsourcing initiatives,” they explain. Their research has allowed them to identify six management practices that if implemented well would allow a crowdsourcing initiative to work the most effectively and efficiently.

The six management practices identified by the team are:

  1. Selecting appropriate communication technologies
  2. Defining tasks
  3. Evaluating crowd size and its knowledge base
  4. Launching tasks and supporting interpretation
  5. Giving feedback and encouraging interaction
  6. Allowing user-driven idea evaluations

“Crowdsourcing platforms support firms in integrating users and customers in various types of innovation tasks,” the team explains. Their insights, based on illustrative cases and a survey of earlier research suggests that the transformation from company-driven innovation to user-driven models brings challenges that might be addressed by considering these six key aspects of developing a crowdsourcing program. “Our study has implications for the emerging research on crowdsourcing, where most studies have so far focused on the individual user level and neglected the hosting organisation’s perspective,” the team points out.

The team adds that crowdsourcing has to be seen as a two-way process and that it must have obvious benefits for the individuals among the “crowd” as well as the hosting organisation. “An organisation should not presume its crowdsourcing initiative will be successful,” they say. “But instead be prepared to define tasks and target crowds by trial and error. This is a two-way process at the heart of any successful idea crowdsourcing initiative.”

Kosonen, M. and Henttonen, K. (2015) ‘Cheer the crowd? Facilitating user participation in idea crowdsourcing’, Int. J. Technology Marketing, Vol. 10, No. 1, pp.95–110.

Author: David Bradley

Award-winning, freelance science writer based in Cambridge, England.