Cash or Non-Cash? Exploring Ideators’ Incentive Preferences in Crowdsourcing Contests

Christoph Riedl, Johann Füller, Katja Hutter, and Gerard J. Tellis
Journal of Management Information Systems
Volume 41, Issue 2, Pages 487-514
June 24, 2024


Even though research has repeatedly shown that non-cash incentives can be effective, cash incentives are the de facto standard in crowdsourcing contests. In this multi-study research, we quantify ideators’ preferences for non-cash incentives and investigate how allowing ideators to self-select their preferred incentive—offering ideators a choice between cash and non-cash incentives—affects their creative performance. We further explore whether the market context of the organization hosting the contest—social (non-profit) or monetary (for-profit)—moderates incentive preferences and their effectiveness. We find that individuals exhibit heterogeneous incentive preferences and often prefer non-cash incentives, even in for-profit contexts. Offering ideators a choice of incentives can enhance creative performance. Market context moderates the effect of incentives, such that ideators who receive non-cash incentives in for-profit contexts tend to exert less effort. We show that heterogeneity of ideators’ preferences (and the ability to satisfy diverse preferences with suitably diverse incentive options) is a critical boundary condition to realizing benefits from offering ideators a choice of incentives. We provide managers with guidance to design effective incentives by improving incentive-preference fit for ideators.

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