Tips for Selecting External Crowdsourcing Providers

Posted by Graham Buchanan on Jul 10, 2017 7:40:43 AM

In this article, we explore some of the key questions to consider when selecting external crowdsourcing providers.

What are you looking to achieve?

Perform small or specific tasks

Freelancing and micro-task platforms such as Fiverr or Amazon Mechanical Turk could be your best bet. Then there are niche providers for specific fields, such as 99designs for graphic design work.

Solve pressing problems and address unmet needs

Go for a dedicated provider of crowdsourced innovation. At InnoCentive, we specialize in tackling your pressing business, technical or scientific problems and needs. Our Premium Challenge range has six Challenge types, which allow you to find anything from early-stage ideas to full prototypes. The four most popular are:

  • Ideation Challenges: run a global brainstorm for breakthrough ideas.
  • Theoretical Challenges: receive in-depth written proposals.
  • Reduction to Practice (RTP) Challenges: receive experimentally validated solutions.
  • Electronic Request for Partner (eRFP) Challenges: discover partners or suppliers.

Through our proven framework of Challenge Driven Innovation - refined over 16 years - our PhD-educated Challenge Experts help you decompose your problem or need into an expertly crafted Challenge.

The end result: perceived complexities and limitations are replaced with the confidence that all parties know exactly what they are receiving and providing.

See all full details of all six challenge types on the Challenge Overview page.

How detailed and actionable do you want submissions to be?

Limitations on the information you can provide to the crowd working on your problem or need affect the solutions you receive. Some providers only allow for non-confidential information to be shared in the project descriptions and submitted responses. This is not the case at InnoCentive. Our Challenge Specific Agreements, which must be agreed and adhered to by all those involved in a Challenge, can prohibit the sharing of any information contained in the Challenge details or submissions, unless stated otherwise. This additional layer of security means that you can disclose more details and Solvers can submit proposals containing confidential information, ultimately allowing you, the Seeker, to receive actionable and detailed solutions, rather than just conversation starters.

How important is speed?

A few years ago we conducted a poll at the World Open Innovation Forum, asking attendees how often their projects were delayed by the time taken to reach agreement with external partners. I’m sure you can guess the most common response: 80% of respondents answered ‘almost always’.

Some providers focus primarily on finding you a partner or supplier, with all agreements and contracts coming afterwards. At InnoCentive, IP treatments and award amounts are agreed to by all parties upfront. So, following the conclusion of a Challenge, you promptly gain access to awarded ideas and solutions. No subsequent contract negotiations lasting months and stopping momentum - just one upfront agreement, one straightforward engagement, hundreds of brains tackling your problem.

Are you looking to remain anonymous to the outside world?

At InnoCentive, we give you the option to either run a Challenge publically or anonymously. We handle all communication with Solvers, escalating questions to you only when necessary, and IP transfer and payments are administered by the InnoCentive team.

Do you also want to separately better harness the power of your internal crowd?

Tapping external crowds allows you to augment your organization with a vast on-demand workforce, share risk, discover diverse perspectives and make unexpected partnerships. But tapping your internal crowd also has benefits: improving employee engagement and collaboration, improving organizational learning and knowledge diffusion, and avoiding the ‘not invented here’ syndrome.  

InnoCentive allows you to do both. Challenges can either be broadcast to our global network of over 380,000 creative and smart minds – all separately and specifically registered with InnoCentive – or to your internal networks through our InnoCentive@Work offering.


Ultimately, when choosing the right crowdsourcing provider there are lots of factors to consider. What’s important is that you find a proven provider that you can trust.

As the global pioneer in crowdsourced innovation, InnoCentive have run over 2,000 Challenges across a range of industries, with over $20 million being paid out in awards to date. In 2016, 80% of Premium Challenges were awarded. A study conducted by Forrester Consulting found that leading forest products company, SCA, received a Return on Investment of 74% with a payback period of less than 3 months from their work with InnoCentive.

If you would like to read more about the principals of Challenge Driven InnovationTM and see some examples of it in action, you can download our eBook below.


Topics: Seekers

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