Crowdsourcing ideas: sexy ideas get implemented

Through history, the engine of human progress and prosperity has been, and is, the mating of ideas

Matt Ridley – When Ideas Have Sex

Idea crowdsourcing is the act when a company outsources the generation of new ideas (e.g. new product development) by an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call. The sourcing of ideas occurs on online idea crowdsourcing platforms that are open to everybody who has access to the Internet and no specific training or expertise is needed. Most studies about idea crowdsourcing focus on the phase of idea generation. In the July 2016 issue of Research Policy there is an interesting article (Schemmann et al., 2016) that focuses on the characteristics that determine whether an idea is going to be implemented by the crowdsourcing company.

The main three findings are:

  • Highly motivated participants who suggest many ideas are not more likely to generate ideas that are implemented than those participants who only suggest one or a few ideas;
  • Attention paid by participants to other ideas, positively influences the likelihood of an idea to be implemented;
  • Potentially innovative ideas are more likely to be implemented than ideas that are not innovative.

The two characteristics that positively influences idea implementation are (1) the attention paid to other ideas and (2) that ideas need to be potentially innovative. When it comes to the finding that paying attention to other ideas during crowdsourcing is so important, this relates for me to an interesting TED talk from Matt Ridley in 2010 (When Ideas Have Sex), where he shows that we as humans are successful because of the mating of our ideas. The crowdsourcing of ideas on online platforms is a good way to create events where ideas meet and mate. On the other hand it is worthwhile to consider that it is not easy at all to create specific online idea crowdsourcing events. There are many platforms on the internet, however not all are successful. Online idea crowdsourcing can be a useful tool for special occasions, but in my opinion it is more important to create a good diversified network with a larger multidisciplinary team to crowdsource new ideas.

Finally when it comes to the research finding that the potentially most innovative ideas are most likely to be implemented, this is probably true because these ideas are the most sexy!

Norbert Bol


Schemmann, B., Herrmann, A. M., Chappin, M. M., & Heimeriks, G. J. (2016). Crowdsourcing ideas: Involving ordinary users in the ideation phase of new product development. Research Policy, 45(6), 1145-1154.

Photo credit: ToreaJade via / CC BY-NC-SA

Music suggestion: The Boxer Rebellion – Big Ideas

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