Strategic Crowdsourcing: The Emergence of Online Distributed Innovation

Andrei Villarroel








Back in year 2000 few people would envision that a valuable project could be successfully developed by individuals spread around the world without any contractual ties or physical offices, and for free or almost for free. What seemed a far-fetched idea only a decade ago has fueled the creation of humanity’s largest knowledge repository, Wikipedia, the most extensive multilingual social network site, Facebook, and the first general-purpose human computer, Amazon Mechanical Turk. The value created through these and other online platforms is undeniable, as two Time magazine Person of the Year awards now attest.1 One was granted to “You” in 2006—to all the individuals who contributed on these platforms on a scale never seen before; and the second one to Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2010—for creating a new platform to interconnect us all as one social network. Yet the organizations surrounding these platforms are radically different from those traditionally studied in business school. Online platforms enable the rapid assembly of distributed resources held by individuals who are geographically dispersed throughout the world. Endeavors built around these platforms have been referred to as “crowdsourcing” (Howe 2006) initiatives. They source knowledge, money, services, and so on, from a large and undefined group of people through an open call. Thousands of such initiatives have been created over the last decade,2 which we are now studying systematically.3 As more such platforms become available, our ability to design organizations as globally distributed systems is greatly enhanced. In this chapter, I provide evidence of the nature and effectiveness of crowdsourcing from an organizational point of view, and introduce concepts and frameworks that explain how crowdsourcing extends the industrial era concept of the firm. Managers should find value in understanding the concepts and frameworks in this chapter to guide their decisions about engaging in crowdsourcing endeavors. Researchers may find new ideas for further study.


Previous Chapter / Next Chapter

The Book

The book Leading Open Innovation describes OI’s search for smart people who might expand the space for innovation.
It reflects international, cross-sector, and transdisciplinary interests among contributors from the United States, Germany, France, Finland, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Tunisia, Austria, and China working in large multinational organizations, academic institutions, or entrepreneurial projects.
They are part of the Peter Pribilla network, which Ralf Reichwald describes at the end of the volume as a point of contact that supports overlapping interests in innovation and leadership.

Twitter Updates