The Diverse Uses of Crowdsourcing Competitions

Posted by Michael Franklin on Apr 5, 2016 4:55:14 AM

Coming out of Eli Lily, it’s easy to assume that the majority of InnoCentive Challenges would be scientific in nature: searching for new molecules, device designs, drug assays or chemical structures. But as the open innovation marketplace has matured, and particularly in the past few years, there’s been a stark diversification of the types of clients and Challenge topics that have been posted with us. As crowdsourcing becomes ever more universal, more and more industries are understanding it’s capability to tackle their specific issues.

Returning back to the closing decades of the twentieth century, innovation was largely a modular, siloed process. Have an R&D problem, let’s give it to this lab to work on. Need to explore new potential markets, bring in a management consultant. Want to design a publicity program, let’s have the communications team control that. Specialisation in these fields was of course important to deliver functional results, but by closing off projects to all but one domain, this arguably led to an institutionalisation that prevented the truly ground-breaking ideas from being discovered.

This was where crowdsourcing came in.

First tackling the R&D field, crowdsourcing gave a method for scientific problems to be positioned so experts from around the world could tackle them, present their novel idea and allow companies to innovate cheaper, faster and develop new partnerships at the same time. InnoCentive saw great success with the Oil Spill Recovery Challenge, Prize4Life Biomarker Challenge, and many others, while other providers like NineSigma or XPrize found similar success in these classical scientific fields.

But in the past few years there has been a noticeable shift in the subject matter of Challenges run. No longer are clients purely seeking to crowdsource solutions to technical problems, but instead are looking for; public policy papers, market analysis and new product proposals, promotional videos, marketing campaigns, predictive consumer algorithms and many more.  It’s testament to the flexibility of our open innovation management platform and foundational Challenge Driven Innovation’ methodology, that gives the formal structure and process that allows breakthrough results to be achieved. With over 2000 Challenges launched, we’ve built a wealth of experience and expertise in how this methodology can be translated to new problem areas and industries.

In looking at the second side of the equation – the Solvers who then provide solutions to Challenges, they too have developed as a group over time. If we think about ourselves as individuals, we are not limited to one topical area where outside of this we would be unable to provide anything of value. In fact where the greatest worth can be found through crowdsourcing is often at the crossover point where we transfer our expertise into a new field to provide a truly ground-breaking solution. It could be a similar technique that has worked in a previous field, or some information picked up through a past collaboration. Further, along with appreciating how InnoCentive’s 375,000 Solvers all present various fields of expertise, as more diverse Challenges are being posted so too are diverse working groups joining our platform: dedicated computer scientists, graphical designers and others all becoming active members of our network. As all these aspects come together, it’s at this nexus where the greatest output can be found and benefits of crowdsourcing solutions realised.

Starting from a narrowly scientific field, crowdsourcing has expanded over the past two decades to cover nearly every industry. As this has occurred, the crowd has diversified and with this, multiplied in the value they can provide. As open innovation becomes an embedded tool of twenty-first century business practices, this process will continue to happen with more and more industries seeing the value in opening up their innovation needs to the combined smarts of the online world.

If you’d like to find out more about running your own crowdsourcing competition, please feel free to get in contact here: 


Topics: Innovation Insights

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