Nuts & Bolts - Social Media: A Creative Study in Freshening Crowdsourced Ideas
One of Henry Ford's more famous quotes is, "If I'd asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have said a faster horse." There's some validity to that assertion, according to a study released on Aug. 26, 2010, titled "Crowdsourcing and Individual Creativity Over Time: The Detrimental Effects of Past Success."
The study's author, Barry L. Bayus, a marketing professor at Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, delves into one of the main ways organizations are getting social with consumers. He finds companies can keep crowdsourced ideas innovative by continuing to acquire new members, among which there will be more "serial ideators" who will add multiple creative thoughts. Other members will read those thoughts and come up with more ideas, resulting in an engaged community.
Based on his observation of Dell's IdeaStorm crowdsourcing system, the study finds:
• A higher quantity and quality of creative ideas come from those who are sharing them for the fun of it. According to the study, "Thousands of software programmers willingly contribute their time to various open-source software projects for no tangible rewards." Therein lies the dilemma: Incentives get consumers to join branded communities, but are detrimental to creativity. Bayus cites how Dell provides a small amount of recognition; a pen and the simple note, "implemented," tacked to accepted ideas. (Bayus finds longer explanations could cause idea-generators to "propose less divergent ideas," reminiscent of Ford's quote.)
• Most individuals contribute only one idea. For Dell, that figure was 75 percent.
• About 25 percent of those who submitted ideas to Dell commented on posts from others first. So contributors should have access to a broad range of previously suggested ideas so they'll be more likely to submit their own.
• Those with more shared ideas tend to comment more on those of others. Dell saw 47 percent of "serial ideators" comment, while only 22 percent of single-idea submitters offered thoughts on others' submissions.
• The most productive idea senders haven't yet had their ideas acknowledged by the organization. "As their creative ideas are externally recognized, however, serial ideators become less likely to subsequently propose further creative ideas."
To learn more about the study, visit http://bit.ly/98xKRR.