David Alan Grier wrote in Crowdsourcing for Dummies “the hardest part of crowdsourcing is raising the right crowd.” It is one of the realities of crowd ideation that continues to hold true – that if you can’t draw a crowd to help you generate innovative ideas, then you’re not evolving beyond the traditional closed approach to innovation.

After all, the value of idea management through the crowd is that you get better ideas, more ideas, and answers to questions that you never thought to ask. But if you can’t figure out how to get the crowd to participate in the first place, then none of these benefits apply. And no matter how successful an organization was at overcoming this obstacle, we still found that if you asked them where they spend the majority of the efforts, it is mostly on crowd engagement strategies and finding new ways to make the crowd creative.

Here are three reasons that people had difficulty drawing crowds.

Lack of appropriate incentives

There are two basic reasons why people are motivated to participate in a crowdsourcing effort: extrinsic value (ex: cash or other rewards, social recognition) and intrinsic value (ex: the ability to partake in a meaningful conversation/an interesting subject). If a crowdsourcing initiative is not thinking about both of these reward systems when they’re drawing in a crowd, they are overlooking an opportunity to properly motivate participation. This means providing some sort of extrinsic reward system, but also doing things to optimize the intrinsic rewards – like tinkering with the language of the challenge questions and associated communications in order to make the challenge matter to potential participants on an emotional or intellectual level.

It’s difficult to address intrinsic value on a continuous basis

In a study of crowdsourced participation on the site Zooniverse the researchers found that “half of the users stopped contributing to projects after 15 days, and only 6.3 percent of users participate more over time.” There are a variety of reasons that this happens – from notifications to lack of subject matter that matters to the participants. In either case, in order to see continuous activity from the crowd, community managers have to be thinking about how to engage participants through the downtime.

Only top contributors deliver value

The same study that talked about the general fade of participation over time also acknowledged that “the top contributors … make 100 or more times the contributions of the average non-top contributor.” Which means that you still have to get one hundred people in to get to the one person who is going to add the most value to the conversation. As we know, this can take a lot of work.

Because the team at IdeaScale heard about the challenges associated with crowd engagement over and over again, we created a crowdsourcing platform that delivers the crowd to our clients based on their objectives. To learn more about how IdeaBuzz makes crowd management easier, click here.

By Rob Hoehn

About the author

Rob Hoehn is the co-founder and CEO of IdeaScale: the largest open innovation software platform in the world. Hoehn launched crowdsourcing software as part of the open government initiative and IdeaScale’s robust portfolio now includes many other industry notables, such as EA Sports, NBC, NASA, Xerox and many others. Prior to IdeaScale, Hoehn was Vice President of Client Services at Survey Analytics.

Photo: Crowded Street by