Crowdsourcing for Innovation

Teamwork builds big idea. If everybody gives a little, it adds up.

Teamwork builds big idea. If everybody gives a little, it adds up.

I recently heard about an Indian movie called “Lucia”, a movie that was completely financed through crowd-funding. With more than 110 investors contributing to the movie through Facebook and a blog run by director, the film became one of the first of its kind in India to foray into this new world of financing. Almost 51 lakh Rupees (~ 78,000 USD) was raised in just 27 days. However, what was more intriguing was that the movie was not only crowdfunded but crowdsourced as well. Audiences came forward and offered all kinds of services ranging from designing, location setting, music and some even for acting.

Crowdsourcing is not a new phenomenon. Science and Academia have been relying on incremental contribution to research for decades. Open source software is also another development through crowdsourcing. Big companies have also been implementing crowd sourcing by creating crowd contests. Very recently, the pharmaceutical company, Merck set up an 8-week contest with a prize money of $40,000 for participants to identify the chemical compound which held the most promise for future testing. The winning solution in fact came from individuals not related to the life sciences field. Lego, Lay’s, Starbucks, Microsoft and Tesla Motors are other establishments that have used crowdsourcing to come up with new ideas, flavors and designs. Wikipedia is also another example of a crowdsourced innovation.

You can find many tips and suggestions online on how to run a successful crowdsourcing campaign. But is crowdsourcing always a good idea? Dows it work for all kinds of projects? While researching, I found that two of the primary conditions required for a successful crowdsourced project is high modularity and low granularity. Modularity has to do with the nature of the project, whether it can easily be broken down into individual units to work on separately and then aggregated back together. Granularity refers to the size of the individual modules in terms of the time and effort that an individual must invest in producing them. Together these conditions enable individuals to make incremental contributions that adds to the overall project. As was in the case of the movie ‘Lucia’, the different aspects of film making could easily be divided into different components and put together to make a good movie. Can you think of other industries that could also implement crowdsourcing?



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