Make Your Crowd Smart

Christoph Riedl, Victor P. Seidel, Anita W. Woolley, and Gerald C. Kane
MIT Sloan Management Review
February 6, 2020


Facing ever-increasing pressure to innovate, some companies turn to crowdsourcing for new ideas. Many crowdsourcing efforts, however, fall short of expectations or are abandoned. Amazon’s crowdsourced film script submission system, for example, was shut down after failing to attract scripts with global appeal. Quirky, a product invention startup, went bankrupt as it unsuccessfully attempted to crowdsource the entire product development process.

There is a common misconception that there is only one approach to crowdsourcing, but asking crowds to address problems that they’re poorly suited to solve leads to many crowdsourcing failures. Our research suggests instead that there are multiple approaches to crowdsourcing that are appropriate for tasks of differing scope and complexity. Our smart crowds framework of three distinct types of crowdsourcing provides guidance for managers wishing to address business problems and boost innovation opportunities through crowdsourcing.

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