The Value of Crowdsourcing: Can Users Really Compete with Professionals in Generating New Product Ideas?
Marion Kristin Poetz
Copenhagen Business School
Bocconi University - Department of Marketing
December 17, 2009
Journal of Product Innovation Management, Forthcoming
Generating ideas for new products used to be the exclusive domain of marketers, engineers, and/or designers. Users have only recently been recognized as an alternative source of new product ideas. Whereas some have attributed great potential to outsourcing idea generation to the “crowd” of users (“crowdsourcing”), others have clearly been more skeptical. The authors join this debate by presenting a real-world comparison of ideas actually generated by a firm’s professionals with those generated by users in the course of an idea generation contest. Both professionals and users provided ideas to solve an effective and relevant problem in the consumer goods market for baby products. Executives from the underlying company evaluated all ideas (blind to their source) in terms of key quality dimensions, including novelty, customer benefit, and feasibility. The study reveals that the crowdsourcing process generated user ideas that score significantly higher in terms of novelty and customer benefit, and somewhat lower in terms of feasibility. However, the average values for feasibility – in sharp contrast to novelty and customer benefit – tended to be relatively high overall, meaning that feasibility did not constitute a narrow bottleneck in this study. Even more interestingly, it is found that user ideas are placed more frequently than expected among the very best in terms of novelty and customer benefit. These findings, which are quite counterintuitive from the perspective of classic new product development (NPD) literature, suggest that, at least under certain conditions, crowdsourcing might constitute a promising method to gather user ideas which can complement those of a firm’s professionals at the idea generation stage in NPD.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 37
JEL Classification: O31
Date posted: March 10, 2010