In this age of social media, access to a broad community has never been more readily available. We have unlimited access to people from all over the world.
And this is great news for innovation. When an organization needs fresh ideas to move the needle, it can look beyond the boardroom and tap into a whole new resource for solving complex challenges - the crowd.
Crowdsourcing can save time, money, and energy - it’s a win/win for everyone.
Crowdsourcing leverages the power of community, using the ideas and insights from bright minds around the globe to provide collaborative problem-solving, brainstorm ideas, raise funds, and answer questions. How is crowdsourcing beneficial to business problem-solving? Is crowdsourcing effective? How does it promote creativity and innovation?
Let’s talk about it. And if you’re ready to host your own challenge, click that button to get in touch.
1. Encourages Diversity in Thinking
When bringing disruptive ideas to the table, you must seek diversity of thought. Access to thought diversity can be difficult for smaller businesses or those specializing in a niche product or market. Likeminded employees with similar education and interests make great happy hours but don’t do much to help bring new, exciting solutions. When we think about the importance of thought diversity, consider a school of fish. If a school of fish tries to teach each other to stop swimming in circles–while they swim in circles–those fish aren’t going anywhere. Someone with a different way of thinking needs to assist the fish (or a business in this case) in moving forward. No matter the organization, it can benefit from outside assistance, especially when it comes to innovation.
A great example of a company using thought diversity is LEGO. During a period of financial struggle for the nostalgic brand, they reached out to their most significant idea resource available—their customers. Using the LEGO Idea Portal, they crowdsourced ideas from the builder community launched a campaign, and asked the builder community to submit ideas for new LEGO sets that could make it to market.
LEGO was inundated with various ideas and secured a new angle for their marketing: LEGO sets designed by valued customers. This broad spectrum of innovation simply couldn’t be tapped into within the walls of LEGO headquarters.
Diversity of thought also extends to the crowdsourcing participants and how their unique perspectives can benefit the company. When using crowdsourcing, it’s crucial to have a diverse group of people participating. Various backgrounds, ages, and education can significantly influence the types of solutions being presented.
2. Reduces Stress on Management
Most businesses rely on upper-level management to provide a steady stream of problem-solving and idea creation. This high level of expectations and stress can lead to burnout, high turnover rates, and low job satisfaction. Adding crowdsourcing as a productivity tool is a great solution to support innovation stakeholders. Crowdsourcing expedites innovation in the same way Canva expedites design.
Crowdsourcing for innovative solutions is an easy, effective means of getting better results while allowing management to focus on other tasks at hand. An organization can set the parameters of a crowdsourcing exercise and enable people to submit their ideas while management remains largely hands-off. It’s a win-win.
3. Provides (Mostly) Free Marketing
There is something earnest in a company genuinely asking its customers, employees, and communities for help with ideas and solutions. When an organization turns to its customer base, employees, or community for assistance, the participants often generate grassroots marketing. Whether volunteering to hand out samples of products they helped develop or sharing the news of a competition on social media, crowdsourcing loyalists can be highly influential for businesses. Many times the energy and enthusiasm around a crowdsourcing campaign are all a brand needs to strike free PR and marketing gold, which equates to significant cost savings.
A great example of how customer excitement can equal free marketing is the White Cup Challenge launched by Starbucks in 2014. Starbucks asked customers to illustrate original designs of their imagination on a blank white cup. To enter, customers would take a photo of their cup creation and tag Starbucks with the contest hashtag #WhiteCupChallenge to be entered to win. Over 4,000 designs were submitted, and the winner, an art student from Pittsburg, had hers made into a limited-edition reusable cup sold in stores. This contest generated free advertising through social media tagging, and the brand got a free concept for a reusable cup.
Want to see what your challenge can do for your marketing? Get in touch to see what hosting a challenge with HeroX can look like for your organization.
4. Improves Customer Insight
One of the most significant benefits of crowdsourcing is the insights it can provide about your customers and key demographics. Asking customers to participate in idea creation or for their solutions to a problem is a priceless opportunity to pull back the curtain on who they are and what they want from your business.
Many companies use crowdsourcing campaigns to glean customer information. Major brands like Lay’s, Starbucks, and Clorox allow their customers to pitch new products and offer suggestions on improving their current ones. In 2022, McDonald's launched a customer-driven Menu Hacks campaign where McDonald's loyalists could submit their recipe ideas, essentially Frankenstein-ing existing offerings into ultimate sandwiches. These strange but popular creations were available exclusively through the McDonald's app. This unique crowdsourcing exercise allowed customers to flex their ingenuity and gave McDonald's a flood of new app users.
Taking the benefits of crowdsourcing one step further, some crowdsourcing exercises require customers to create profiles to participate. Those profiles collect data about the user’s age, location, and other demographic information. Companies can then double down on the information they receive and use it for more effective marketing.
5. It saves time and money
In February of 2020, NASA, which has literal rocket scientists at its disposal, reached out to the crowd through a prize challenge called “Exploring Hell”—seeking an innovative obstacle avoidance sensor for its mechanical clockwork rover.
When the results came in, NASA was blown away. They obtained designs for a rover that would withstand the hellish temperatures of Venus through a $30,000 prize challenge on HeroX. It was equivalent to the work of 3 senior project teams, one that would have cost millions– and the winning teams provided them with five designs that met 100% of the requirements. This is what's possible when you take your internal R&D challenges and cast them out to the global crowd to solve them for you.
Any individual or organization can run a crowdsourcing campaign to achieve its organizational goals. With access to an unlimited resource such as the crowd, we exist in an era where solutions are literally at our fingertips. There truly is no limit to what can be achieved in this virtual network of human ingenuity.
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