5 Tips for Crowdsourcing From Within

by Lauren Dixon

Crowdsourcing can work wonders for a company when it comes to improving its products or services.

But not all companies want to share their problems or product insights with the outside world. Also, employees might want to weigh in on company issues and share their own insights into how the business operates.

Here are five things to keep in mind when crowdsourcing internally:

1. Get the word out. Communicating a crowdsourcing initiative internally can be through email communication or posters in office hallways, said Christopher Tucci, professor of management of technology and chair in corporate strategy and innovation at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland.

2. Offer participation incentives. While workers could respond well to a small prize, money is likely to work, too. “The general rule in crowdsourcing is if the company is making money from whatever you’re doing, generally speaking, you have to pay somehow or another,” Tucci said. People don’t want to make suggestions and then get nothing in return.

3. Be able to scale evaluation of ideas. If inundated with ideas with only a single person to sort through them, decisions will take a significant amount of time, Tucci said. Some form of voting can mean the finalist lineup is also crowdsourced. However, never let this determine the ultimate winner of a competition, he advised.

4. Encourage collaboration, knowledge sharing. “Those that let the crowds collaborate got better ideas,” said Arvind Malhotra, professor of entrepreneurial education and professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler School of Business. Rather than requiring employees to submit a fully thought-out idea, people can share knowledge, including key facts needed for an initiative, suggestions for improving cost or increasing value for customers.

5. Know when to crowdsource externally. While internal crowdsourcing can prove effective, companies can miss out on a wealth of knowledge from outside of the office. “If you have a lot of people who are experts in a certain area that you don’t have in your company, then you’re better off actually going outside,” Tucci said.