Using Crowdsourcing as a working model


December 14, 2012 by ClaudiaZumpe

By Claudia D. Zumpe, MSc in Management Consulting 3 student

Crowdsourcing is an emerging practice that has in recent years gained popularity in the business landscape. Forms and applications are manifold, manifesting themselves for example in innovation contests for new product ideas, online brainstorming sessions on strategic issues or even software development in a collective format. Crowdsourcing is defined by Howe (2008), who coined the term, as “the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.” However, due to the novelty of the concept, there is currently no singular definition; furthermore, lack of unity regarding different forms of Crowdsourcing exists. For example, it can be distinguished between commercial and non-profit use, as well as between unremunerated and financially rewarded Crowdsourcing initiatives.

When reading about Crowdsourcing, usually great enthusiasm about using the collective intelligence of a large, distributed crowd is prompted. However, the thought about its implications on some professions and the future of work also involuntarily come to mind.

An interesting development that I came across is using Crowdsourcing commercially as a working model, for example, as is being done in Amazon Mechanical Turk. Using the crowd explicitly as a workforce can lead to labor scalability and flexibility, as well as cost savings. Furthermore, talent can be tapped globally and the “wisdom of the crowd” can be utilized. For contributors this is often a fun and productive pastime and an opportunity to apply and improve skills in an online community. Depending on the form of Crowdsourcing it can even be a source of income based on meritocracy.

The downside of Crowdsourcing should, however, also not be disregarded. Organizations using Crowdsourcing as a working model may encounter quality problems and issues of worker retention or intellectual property rights. The lack of control over “the crowd” is a major concern. From a participant’s perspective, it needs to be pointed out that Crowdsourcing initiatives offer no job security and usually only low pay. Work is purely on speculation so it may lead to work intensification.

In my opinion, this consideration shows that commercial use of Crowdsourcing is a controversial issue due to the various opportunities and threats. However, I believe that the outcome depends on what form of Crowdsourcing is used and how it is implemented. If a thorough and fair implementation strategy is devised, the positive and negative traits of Crowdsourcing may be balanced.

Independent of its consequences, I think that Crowdsourcing in its commercial and non-commercial forms is an interesting trend to keep an eye on.

I guess that only time will show whether Crowdsourcing’s creative or destructive potential will prevail, but what do you think?

Definition from:
Howe, J. (2008): Crowdsourcing. Why the Power of the Crowd is driving the Future of Business, (status as of: 04.11.2012)

P.S.: For those of you looking for an introductory, easy-to-understand read about Crowdsourcing, I can recommend the following books (that take an enthusiastic stance towards to the topic):

Howe, J. (2009): Crowdsourcing. Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business. London 2009.

Surowiecki, J. (2004): The Wisdom Of Crowds. Why The Many Are Smarter Than The Few And How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies, And Nations. London 2004.


5 thoughts on “Using Crowdsourcing as a working model

  1. AnnaD says:

    Nice one, Clauds!

  2. Annika Kuehne says:

    Claudia, thanks for sharing this elaborate overview of Crowdsourcing.
    In my opinion Crowdsouring helps generating innovative ideas which an individual wouldn’t have the mental abilities to come up with or if so it would take him longer. Thus, Crowdsourcing is an efficient tool to make use of the collaboration of a diverse group of people with different backgrounds and skills (e.g culture, profession, education).
    However, the use of Crowdsourcing should be based on ethical behavior. Companies have started to make profit with ideas generated by customers without adequate profit participation of the respective inventor or designer. The joint platform Lego Cuusoo gives the customer the possibility of designing a Lego set which is confirmed by applying Crowdsourcing. When a product is produced, the designer receives 1% of the profit, whereas LEGO Cuusoo keeps 99% ( From my perspective of view Crowdsourcing should be benefitting society more than generating additional revenue for certain companies. I could see the application of Crowdsourcing in the medical sector i.e. establishing a larger database of patients and find possible treatments.

    Best, Annika

  3. ClaudiaZumpe says:

    Thank you so much for the detailed feedback and your thoughts, Annika!
    I hadn’t come across Lego Cuusoo in my own research yet, so I am very happy that you made me aware of this initiative. The issue of ethics in Crowdsourcing is indeed a crucial issue and the remuneration of workers on Crowdsourcing projects is currently in most cases not appropriate. For example, Ipeirotis (2010) even suggests that projects like Amazon Mechanical Turk could lead to the formation of digital sweatshops!
    Yet, to me it appears highly questionable that the crowd would – in the long term – be willing to contribute work of outstanding quality for corporations that profit disproportionately from the submitted work and exploit workers. Thus, I believe that requesters with the agenda to monetize on the outcome of the Crowdsourcing activities should adopt a form of profit sharing with contributors. And this is an issue along with the motivation of workers which has in my opinion been only insufficiently discussed so far.
    Kind regards, Claudia

    P.S.: If you’re interested in other Crowdsourcing projects, you could check out and Both are sites that bring companies requesting the input from the crowd and the workers together.

    See: Ipeirotis, P. (2010): Mechanical Turk, Low Wages, and the Market for Lemons, (status as of: 14.12.2012)

  4. Hello,

    I guess at this point we have to be more specific. Crowdsourcing itself is not necessarily focused on innovation. In this case we should talk about open innovation. To my point of view an example of Crowdsourcing is MyHammer or the amazing reference case of Crytek.

    The case of Crytek:
    Crytek is an very successful gaming developer. And while creating their new title, Crytek invited all developers around the world to contribute to the growing gaming code. And at the end “the crowd” contributes more than 70% of the whole game!

    Devine the future:
    I think that all the models of Crowdsourcing etc. are temporary terminologies which will lead to HR-Cloud or in more common words “The network organization model”. We need a few years more and some fancy entrepreneurs who are willing to change the habit of working. I am looking forward to the day when we look back and say:”Oh my god, why were those guys in the past so stupid and worked in such an bodice?” like we are doing it nowadays.

    What do you think about this idea?

  5. ClaudiaZumpe says:

    Hi Christian,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and making me aware of Crytek!
    You are absolutely right that Crowdsourcing is not just about innovation. In my opinion, the concept of Crowdsourcing encompasses a wide range of varied practices, forms and applications that involve some kind of contribution from the crowd. In general Crowdsourcing can reportedly be applied to any type of task that requires human intelligence and can be broken down and performed by people (over the internet). This comprises intellectual work involving, for example, the generation or improvement of information. Companies frequently use Crowdsourcing when they have large-scale data needs or a complex problem that needs creative input from outside the organization. It is also applicable to simple, repetitive tasks that do not require extensive skills and training but that cannot be automated yet, such as product attribute annotation, product categorization and business lead verification (such as the case in Amazon Mechanical Turk). Other tasks that can be classified as Crowdsourcing range from software programming, content moderation and online journalism to academic research.
    This explication makes it all the more clear how Crowdsourcing is a concept that still lacks a comprehensive delimitation of different forms and applications. In my opinion, it has hitherto been insufficiently addressed in academia resulting in a currently rather piecemeal and unsystematic representation of the topic.
    I think the point you brought up about the “HR-Cloud” is very relevant. The concept of Crowdsourcing could indeed be used as a working model that shares some similarities with Cloud Computing. Instead of servers being internationally networked in the cloud, workers are organized in an online community where projects and tasks are tendered according to business requirements that can be completed by the workers for a financial reward. In that way Crowdsourcing could make human resources available “on demand” in the required quantity for the time needed in return for a usage-based charge – but for work done by people instead of computers.
    Thus, I share your enthusiasm in that Crowdsourcing has major advantages for corporations such as flexibility, scalability and cost savings as well as the workers who can apply and improve their skills, gain flexibility as well as job access to a multitude of tasks. However, Crowdsourcing is also connected to several disadvantages as I pointed out in my post (quality problems, control issues, low pay, no job security, etc.). Therefore, personally, my feelings are mixed and I advocate a responsible use of it.
    Do you have personal experiences with working on Crowdsourcing projects?
    Kind regards, Claudia

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

A blog by Grenoble Graduate School of Business students.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


December 2012
« Nov   Jan »
%d bloggers like this: