Crowdsourcing is a combination of the terms “outsourcing” and “crowd”. What is meant is that certain tasks and work processes are outsourced to the mass of Internet users, the crowd. Crowdsourcing can be used in a variety of areas.

The term crowdsourcing first appeared in 2006 in an article by Jeff Howe in the US magazine Wired. The aim is to call upon the mass of Internet users to actively participate in companies’ work and creative processes. Through the intelligence of the masses and the working power of many, projects are to be mastered or new solution possibilities are to be gained. One of the best-known examples of crowdsourcing is the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, where thousands of authors actively write and revise encyclopedia articles.

According to a study by the market research company Yougov, every second German would like to participate in the development or improvement of products. The Internet and social media have made it easier to integrate a community into corporate value creation processes. Many companies have already recognized the potential of crowdsourcing and established their own platforms for crowdsourcing. For example, the automotive group BMW uses a virtual platform on which the crowd can contribute to the generation of ideas for the group. In some cases, companies offer users financial incentives for participating in open projects. However, in crowdsourcing, users are often willing to collaborate even without receiving anything in return. In most cases, companies call for participation in crowdsourcing projects via social media such as Facebook.

Areas of application of crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing can be used in various areas. Often, the aim is to generate new ideas with the aim of creating innovations. If the active involvement of the crowd in the innovation process of companies is meant, this is also referred to as open innovation. This form of innovation management has already established itself in the market research of many companies. Apart from generating new ideas, crowdsourcing can also be used to change and improve a company’s existing activities.

Other areas of application are crowdfunding (the crowd is called upon to participate financially in projects. These can often be realized in the first place) and co-creation (in this approach, the creativity of the crowd is used to create something together).

Crowdsourcing offers numerous advantages for companies. For example, the active involvement of the public often leads to new and surprising solutions. In addition, large projects can be realized more quickly through the use of the crowd. Furthermore, crowdsourcing campaigns can help companies achieve their marketing goals: The active engagement of consumers with the product generates involvement. Consumers become more attached to the company or brand.

Whether it is about using the creativity of the crowd to develop new products in innovation management or to realize large-scale projects within a short period of time: The possibility of using the intelligence of the crowd and involving it in value creation processes offers great potential for companies. Crowdsourcing can be used to solve problems, discover trends and develop innovations. To be successful with crowdsourcing, however, the process should be set up strategically.


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