How Can Entrepreneurs Motivate Crowdsourcing Participants

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  • Article: How Can Entrepreneurs Motivate Crowdsourcing Participants? By Derek Smith, Mohammad Mehdi et al., TIM Review, February 2013



"Crowdsourcing is a way to access a global crowd of talented people and to channel their talent and creative effort towards some useful endeavour. Technology entrepreneurs who may have limited resources, especially during the start-up phase of the business, will be attracted to crowdsourcing as a means to access funding, knowledge, subject matter experts, and resources on a global scale. In this article, we review the published research on crowdsourcing as it relates to motivation, and distil the insights from that research that will be useful to technology entrepreneurs. First, we organize the published research into three streams according to crowd type: i) task-based public crowd, ii) information-exchange public crowd, and iii) employee-based crowd. Next, we identify the motivational drivers common to all streams as well as the motivational drivers that are unique to each stream. Finally, we offer five recommendations for technology entrepreneurs seeking to apply crowdsourcing." (



"This article reviewed the published research on crowdsourcing and motivation, presented the content and contribution of that research in a series of tables organized by crowd type, and proposed five actions for technology entrepreneurs seeking to benefit from crowdsourcing. Based on our close reading of the research, we recommend that technology entrepreneurs learn from what others have done by beginning from known motivational drivers, learn quickly through experimentation by varying the implementation details, select implementation details that are matched to their particular context, consider the geographical and cultural diversity of the target crowd, and employ multiple motivation drivers to obtain the full benefit of crowd diversity.

Entrepreneurs need to select and apply the right form of motivation to motivate target crowds in crowdsourcing. If their particular application of crowdsourcing is similar to one of the specific applications described in the tables in this article, then entrepreneurs may select the corresponding form of motivation to successfully motivate their target crowd, seeking further detail from the literature as required. If their particular application of crowdsourcing is different to the applications described in the tables, then entrepreneurs should select the table that best matches the type of crowd they wish to motivate and apply the general approaches used by those applications. In both cases, entrepreneurs should also seek out additional real-world examples of applications similar to their own, while applying the principles and recommendations described here to their interpretation of those examples.

Successful motivation of the target crowd will increase the likelihood of success with crowdsourcing and will provide entrepreneurs with a way to solve significant challenges such as quests for funds, resources, and solutions to unique technical issues for the commercialization of their products. (


By Derek Smith, Mohammad Mehdi et al.:

Task-based public crowds

Public task-based crowds perform a specific task or a set of tasks. There are few or no relationships between the crowd participants, who each contribute using their individual abilities. We identified seven articles in this literature stream (Table 1).

The field settings examined in this research include six intermediary companies offering a crowdsourcing service to customers or corporations and two companies that use internal crowdsourcing capabilities as part of their business model. The types of design tasks in this stream relate to electronics, product design, digital media products, T-shirts, graphics, advertisement, and websites.

Motivational drivers examined in these articles include: immediate financial payment (of varying amounts), skills improvement, enjoyment and fun (of varying type), and community-related motivations. Technology entrepreneurs involved in similar tasks could consider motivating their own crowds in similar ways. However, it is important to note that financial payment might not be the best way to motivate a crowd (Antikainen et al., 2010; Bogers and West, 2012) because other forms of motivation can be more important.

Employee-based crowds

Participants in a corporate, employee-based crowd are employed by the host company. We identified three articles in this stream (Table 2). Two articles examined large-company field settings: one was based in Switzerland (Muhdi and Boutellier, 2011) and the other examined a multinational corporation (Stewart et al., 2009). The third article (Hossain, 2012) is a literature review on motivation and incentives. The crowdsourcing tasks examined in this literature stream included internal idea generation and language translations.

Motivational drivers in these articles include immediate payment of rewards, such as peer recognition, career advancement, and professional development.

Information-exchange public crowds

This type of crowd includes participants seeking technical information as well as participants providing technical information, and these roles are interchangeable. Some tasks may also require creativity in addition to technical information.

We identified three articles in this stream (Table 3). Two articles examined field settings; one was an ideas-based community organized around a company-sponsored contest, and the other was a knowledge-based community anchored around online Usenet groups about computer programming and databases. The third article was a controlled experiment by marketing researchers who could manipulate the points system used to reward participants for contributions and thus shape crowd behaviour. In this last article, one point system resulted in more new ideas, while a second point system resulted in more ideas that built upon existing ideas.

Motivational drivers examined in these articles include access to technical experts to solve problems, learning, fun, and being part of a community." (

Cases on Motivational Approaches for Crowdsourcing

By Derek Smith, Mohammad Mehdi et al.:

"Three examples of motivational approaches in crowdsourcing are provided below.


"Some companies have used crowdsourcing to engage customers to shape the future of a business segment. An example is Lufthansa's Air Cargo Innovation Challenge for Customer Service. Lufthansa was looking for creative ideas about the future form and function of customer service as it related to cargo and in particular the touch points between a customer and Lufthansa customer service representatives. Lufthansa also seized the opportunity to find “out of the box ideas” from the crowd. Members registered to join this crowdsourcing community and created a pool of ideas for consideration by a corporate jury. The motivational drivers used by Lufthansa to motivate the crowd were three different prizes that included training in a flight simulator located at the Frankfurt International Airport and different amounts of air miles (i.e., points to be redeemed against future passenger flights). The top three ideas provided customer insight into a certification program to create trust and loyalty, a CargoTRIS idea to educate people about Lufthansa Cargo, and a CargoPedia idea to build a cargo knowledge base with specific knowledge." (


"Crowdsourcing can also engage customers to participate in the design of a product. An example is Bombardier's innovation contest, which sought ideas relating to the future of train interiors. Bombardier was looking for innovative features to be incorporated into the interior based upon insight from leisure passengers, business travelers, and everyday passengers. Participants registered to join this crowdsourcing community and a corporate jury considered the submissions. The motivational drivers selected by Bombardier for the top 10 submissions in two categories were different levels of cash prizes from 2,000 Euros to 200 Euros as well as Netbook computers. The two categories related to the coach interior and a new seat design. The winning designs provided focus to Bombardier, insight into the passenger needs, and a high level of innovation for the next train product." (


"Crowdsourcing can also engage members from the public to participate in scientific research in situations where funding and staff are limited. Zooniverse is an online science and research site that applies crowdsourcing to citizen-based science projects in a number of different categories. One project relates to studying photos from Mars to determine weather patterns. The group of researchers on this project was too small to effectively review the multitude of images in the photo library while remaining within the time constraints and scope of the project. Volunteers are assisting the researchers with visual identification of particular features on the images such as “fans” and “blotches” on the Martian surface, which are indicative of wind direction and speed. The primary motivational driver for the volunteers is being allowed access to amazing satellite images from Mars. As of January 2013, over 60,000 volunteers had reviewed and reported on more than 3 million photos." (

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