How to Plan Your Crowdsourcing Initiative

Stanford University

Crowdsourcing is a powerful tactic to help organizations gather fresh, innovative ideas and strengthen the relationship between an organization and its current and potential customers.

Before you launch, prepare yourself by asking and answering key questions.

Research studies by Henning Piezunka, an assistant professor at INSEAD, and Linus Dahlander, an associate professor at ESMT Berlin, indicate that organizations must be ready to attract ideas, be prepared to reject and respond to suggestions, and be resourced to effectively select the most valuable ideas.

Here are the key questions your organization should discuss and answer before launch.

1. Define Your Goal

  • Why are we doing this?
  • What problem are we trying to solve?
  • What kinds of ideas will help the organization?
  • Who are the people we should explicitly ask to submit ideas?

Know what you want in order to write a relevant prompt. If you are looking for bold new ideas, then keep your prompts open. If there is a specific product or brand question you want market feedback to challenge, then frame your prompt and be clear about your focus.

Know who you want to hear from to attract the most valuable perspectives. If you want new and unfamiliar ideas, then don’t ask the same sources you talk to everyday. Ask yourself, “whose voice don’t we hear regularly?” and invite them into the conversation.

2. Prepare Your Organization

  • Are we willing to engage with ideas that have their origin outside of the organization?
  • Has the initiative been internally sold so that the organization as a whole is open to ideas?
  • Is the organization willing to deal with ideas that publicly reveal weaknesses in products and services?

The purpose of crowdsourcing is to challenge your organization’s status quo by providing a fresh perspective. If the answer is no to any of the above, then don’t launch a crowdsourcing initiative. It is a waste of your organization’s time, and it is a waste of your contributors’ energies.

3. Assign Resources

  • Who within the organization will be responsible for responding to ideas?
  • Who within the organization will be responsible for selecting ideas?
  • Who within the organization will be responsible for operationalizing ideas?
  • What procedure will we use for evaluating ideas given that ideas present an outsider’s perspective?
  • Will we ask the crowd to help evaluate ideas?

Sourcing ideas from the crowd can be an ambitious and overwhelming initiative. But the work doesn’t end at idea generation. You need plans for how to select the most valuable ideas and how to start operationalizing the ideas throughout your organization.

4. Create Tools and Templates for Engaging with Contributors

  • How will we initially seed the crowdsourcing initiative?
  • What kind of prompt do we use to ask for ideas?
  • What kind of templates will we use to respond to participants?
  • What software will we use to administer the crowdsourcing initiative?

Create quick and efficient processes for your initiative prior to launch. Once the ideas start rolling in, your organization must conserve its energy for evaluating strange ideas and staying open to ideas that challenge the status quo.