Academic representations of crowdsourcing, co-creation and open innovation
As part of my work as a PhD student, I read lots of papers about open innovation and/or participative marketing. These papers are highly interesting but, I must admit, sometimes a little repelling with huge chunks of texts, references and citations. Visualizations of the described phenomena are greatly helpful to understand some of this information… I thought it would be interesting to gather a couple of visualizations of my research interests: crowdsourcing, co-creation and open innovation in a blog post ! This is not only quite entertaining, but might help people out there find new sources. Here we go…
Crowdsourcing has first been defined as “the act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large) network of people in the form of an open call” (Howe, 2006). I particularly like the end of the definition (the open call part) and I don’t think that the term can be applied to everything that is peer-produced or web-based, as more and more people do. The crowdsourcing process is, as Brabham (2010) notes “sponsored by an organization, and that [...] directed or managed by this organization throughout the process. This is very different from, say, the online encyclopedia project Wikipedia, where an open space exists for individuals to work collaboratively“.
In a paper about crowdsourcing‘s application in marketing activities, Paul Whitla from Lingnan University gives three main marketing-related areas that can benefit from crowdsourcing: product development, advertising & promotion, and marketing research. The above representation is just a generic description of the crowdsourcing process, with crowdsourcing intermediaries such as Cambrian House, Mechanical Turk, iStockphoto, Mob4hire, Crowdspirit, Kluster, NineSigma, InnoCentive or Filmriot. Some of them don’t exist anymore ! A propos marketing-related areas impacted by crowdsourcing, you might want to read this: The Implications of User-Generated Advertising on the Value Chain of Advertising.
The above visulization is drawn from a paper I recently discovered. It comparesoutsourcing to crowdsourcing and emphasizes how the latter is a concept per se, distinct from User Innovation, Open Innovation or the Open Source movement. Going a little further, the authors distinguish crowd-based applications like Yelp or Captcha, which they call Integrative Crowdsourcing, and crowdsourced problem-solving like InnoCentive or Nokia Calling All Innovators, which they call Selective Crowdsourcing. Besides, they make a very useful distinction between the type of tasks that are being crowdsourced: simple tasks, complex tasks and creative tasks (see here).
Another very interesting visualization is the one above, that explains how the crowd-based community platform CrowdSpirit (which failed) planned to share revenue with its partners – among which was the crowd. I know it’s not a proper view of the crowdsourcing process, but I really like it because it (like the whole paper) offers rare insights into the difficult world of profitability It also shows that ideas might be free, but generating revenue from these ideas is tricky !
For those who want to find out more about this illustration, they can check out this Slideshare presentation about the Swiss ideation-platform Atizo. Similarly to Lakhani & Jeppesen’s paper about innoCentive (2010), researchers from the University of St. Gallen wanted to find out what external factors influence contest outcomes, which seems to be a growingly common concern among platforms and researchers. Results are freely accessible on the web here.
The above representation is one of the few which clearly links co-creation to crowdsourcing, open innovation and even user innovation). It’s adapted from Schenk & Guitard (2009), whose visualization of crowdsourcing is also above, and stems from a fantastic paper of a young PhD-student at Stanford. The Finish student Tanja Aitamurto is conducting research about pretty much the same topics than I do, and she works closely with companies like Nokia. “The notion of co-creation combines user innovation and crowdsourcing and also is a subset of the open innovation concept“, she says in the paper.
An interesting visualization is this one because it’s the only one to actually show the “active” role that should be played by the crowdsourcing intermediary. This one is not only responsible for having a crowd of potential contributors, but also to issue the call (“source contributions“) and to aggregate the content (“aggregate contributions“). Being actively involved in crowdsourcing in my day job, I can say that this latter stage is very important for the organizations who sponsor crowdsourcing initiatives, because it’s easy to get lost, it’s time-consuming if contributions are incomplete etc. You’ll find Geiger et al.’s paper, which is based on a review of 46 examples of crowdsourcing-based organizations, here.
In their paper How Design Competitions are Changing Innovation, Lampel et al. provide an interesting analysis of the evolution of crowdsourcing for innovation. The above illustration is their representation of the process, but their paper goes beyond that: they identify several key differences in “design competitions” (or “innovation contests“) and illustrate them by giving examples of famous contests. For example: the Netflix Prize was a contest with narrow focus, whereas DARPA’s driverless vehicle competition was a contest with broad focus. Other key differences include the architecture, design, assessment or the design of contests, but also underlines the growing role played by “external actors such as technology brokers, project promoters, and innovation intermediaries.” I recommend this read for innovation scholars!
This one is in Spanish! Actually the only English part is the abstract, which starts with: “This paper focuses on the analysis of a series of emerging creative practices of particular relevance in the field of audiovisual media production, particularly those that tend to cluster around two terms of increasing popularity: crowdsourcing and crowdfunding.” In their paper Crowdsourcing y crowdfunding como prácticas colaborativas en la producción audiovisual contemporánea, a group of Spanish researchers describe crowdsourcing and crowdfunding as novel production methods in the film industry. They cite examples like A Swarm of Angels or the great Life In A Day, describing how these projects have integrated users in the creative process. For those of you who feel like reading about crowdsourcing and the creative industries in Spanish, I recommend it!
In “The Theory of Crowd Capital,” John Prpic and Prashant Shukla from the Simon Fraser University in Vancouver present an interesting model of leveraging the crowd in organizations. “We conceptualize Crowd Capital as a heterogeneous organizational knowledge resource, generated by the organization’s Crowd Capability,” they say, further explaining that “Crowd Capital is an organizational level capability that is defined by the structure, content, and process of an organizations engagement with the dispersed knowledge of individuals — the Crowd.” An interesting paper, one more to see the crowd as a significant organizational resource… and crowdsourcing as an organizational capability.
In their paper about crowdsourcing in new product development, two researchers from Lille, Souad Djelassi and Isabelle Decoopman, look at crowdsourcing in a very broad perspective. Based on five case studies of consumer goods companies’ crowdsourcing initiatives, they interviewed both participants and managers to better understand this phenomenon in France. They also outline organizational constraints and fears that crowdsourcing generates, but undeline that crowdsourcing can create value for both firms and customers. Donwload their article here.
Similar to the term crowdsourcing, there are a lot of definitions of co-creation out there. I don’t think one can impose one or the other as a universal definition; some have a quite universal view of co-creation, others apply it to specific fields like product developement: “The act of involving consumers directly, and in some cases repeatedly, in the product creation or innovation process. Companies engage with consumers on initial product concepts and ideas, and they use consumers as a resource throughout the product development life cycle” says Doug Williams from Forrester Research on the Co-Creation Forum’s website.
Back to the basics! the first to really spread the word about co-creation were the late C.K. Prahalad and Venkat Ramaswamy. The above figure shows co-creation of experiences as an intersection between companies and consumer at a specific point in time. The next figure is drawn from a real-worl case…
…which is the Nike case. It’s basically the same representation but details Ramaswamy’s Dialogue/Access/Resik-Return/Transparency (DART) model, which is supposed to guide companies in applying the co-creative logic. The paper about Nike highlights the NikePlus platform which, together with corporate partner Apple, gathers runners around the experience of running, sharing with friends and connecting with local communities of sportsmen.
I already talked about Michael Bartl, CEO of Hyve AG, in this blog post about virtual communities in market research. The representation that you can see here is drawn from his website doesn’t only show what co-creation is, but also how it can be implemented and who should be involved. The numerous attributes give executives hints about what decisions to take when engaging in a co-creation initiative… and make clear that it is not a simple endeavour.
This representation stems from an academic paper from the people from Promise Corp, a British co-creation consultancy. Called Co-creation: New Pathways for Value, the document is actually a visually pleasant version of an academic paper and features visualisations such as the above “co-creation matrix” that compares different consumer-engagement techniques according to the role of the firm (y-axis) and the type of value created (x-axis). It looks cool… but doesn’t really differentiate co-creation from other techniques (rather does it show how the different techniques (in green) are versions of co-creation).
In a highly interesting paper, Vladimir Zwass discusses current research and established a taxonomy of co-creation, basically distinguishing sponsored and non-sponsored co-creation. But before going into these details, he defines the “Intellectual Space of Co-Creation Research” (above representation) which -as the previous one from Promise- indicates that co-creation is at the intersection of related trends. “Co-creation is underwritten by several developments that have accreted research literatures and traditions“, he says.
This is the visualization I used for my Master’s Thesis: a distinction of different co-creation methods on the consumer-side. Piller, Ihl & Vossen distinguish three dimensions: the stage of the innovation process, the degree of freedom the the company leaves to the consumer, and the degree of collaboration. It’s a great categorization, even though it’s less visual than some of the other representations in this post. For example, the authors underline that “idea contests overcome a core challenge for firms when opening the innovation process: how to incentivize customers to transfer their innovative ideas“. The example which illustrates idea contests is Fujitsu-Siemens, that I mentioned in another post about Siemens’ co-creation initiatives.
Henry Chesbrough defines Open Innovation as “a paradigm that assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as the firms look to advance their technology” (2003). I think this openness is not only applicable to technology (as innovation is not only linked to R&D) but also to design or marketing. As the following illustrations show, opening the innovation funnel can take various forms.
In a paper about online communities and people who participate in them, Ahonen & Antikainen (2007) discuss peoples’ motivations to participate and how online tools can be helpful to involve people. The above representation shows what toolkits exist to enable user innovation, community cooperation and mass customization via the web. The paper concludes by citing examples of open communities like Bookmooch, InnoCentive or InnerTee (that obviously doesn’t exist anymore). I must admit that I could have put this vusial in either one of the preceding categories, but since it shows different possible tools for Open Innovation, it’s probably best here. Other, more frequent visualizations of Open Innovation follow…
This paper of Leimeister et al. (2009) is praised for being one of the few to be based on experimental data. Their research is based on the SAPiens community of student SAP users who participated to an idea competition explores mechanisms to foster participation on those communities: from skypecasts to tag clouds, from user profiles to community ratings. They conclude that these techniques have a complementary role to play in community activation and member participation. The above representation of Open Innovation is just part of the introduction
Another funnel-like representation, that still focuses a lot on technology/partners and not a lot on consumers. The article content is very much about consumer input, though: “the role of the customer changes increasingly from that of a passive consumer to an active co-innovator, co-producer and co-designer of the innovation process“, it says in the early part of the article (from which this figure is taken). But beside underlining the oppotunities of Open Innovation, it also highlights some risks like dependency towards external idea providers or misuse of resources by users. Talking about this, I highly recommend this paper about negative side effects of customer integration.
A visual from Boudreau & Lakhani’s paper in MIT’s Sloan Management Review. It’s a very synthetic paper about ways to involve external innovators… and as always the answer is: it depends! Based on how much control a company wants to have and how people will be involved (i.e. competition vs. collaboration), different models are possible. Examples of Integrator Platforms are InnoCentive or Threadless, examples of Product Platforms are Wikipedia or Google Android, and examples of Two-Sided Platforms are eBay or Communispace. I like the above visualization because it goes beyond mere “openess” and shows that differences exist between strategies.
In a great paper about different the new innovation paradigms (Open Innovation, User Innovation and Cumulative Innovation), West & Bogers differentiate them from traditional, vertically integrated innovation. “The OI, UI and CI streams focus on innovation that combines knowledge created at different loci, across multiple stakeholders in a value network“, they say just before illustrating this with the above figure. Interestingly, they describe crowdsourcing as “a general of inbound Open Innovation“, citing P&G as a good example, and InnoCentive as a typical intermediary, and co-creation as “an extension of UI-input or OI-inbound that involves joint development of an innovation [...] between a firm’s employees and external stakeholders such as users“.
The above figure comes from an extensive literature review led by Joel West and Marcel Bogers about Open Innovation. The authors highlight how research is plentiful in the early phases of Open Innovation (like obtaining innovation), and later phases like integration and commercialization are less explored. “Identifying and acquiring external innovations is only half the battle“, they say. It’s interesting to see that the customer is only at the end of the innovation process… even though the paper cites Piller & Walcher or Füller et al. (i.e. customer community-based innovation intermediaries) as sources for innovation!
This one is also taken from a paper by West & Bogers, published in 2012 in creativity and innovation management. Their article reviews two streams of research that criticize the traditional, vertical approach of innovation: open innovation and user innovation. They explain that these two concepts are different as in “user innovation [...] the questions and findings revolve around the utility gains for the user rather than any pecuniary benefit”. I like the above visualization because shows that innovation is not only about invention (having creative ideas) but also about implementation by the firm. They say in their article that “open innovation research considers all possible combinations and recombinations of externally created innovations, as long as the firm can successfully commercialize the insourced innovation“. They also talk about crowdsourcing and co-creation, but offer no visualizations of it as these concepts are not the focal points of the paper.
In Managing Unsolicited Ideas for R&D, three professors from London’s Imprial College share results of their research about unsolicited idea management in big firms. They underline that “in practice, many organizations find it difficult to deal with unsolicited ideas because of high quantity, low quality, and the need to transfer IP ownership” and identify “practices that allow organizations to meet these challenges and therefore realize some of the potential of unsolicited ideas for R&D.” The above illustration represents the outside-in process of managing ideas, and it’s interesting to notice the “inwards phase” which is rarely addressed in open innovation research. Another warmly recommended read for you.
End note: I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch of cool representations of each of the above topics. You must know that I’ve deliberately chosen to feature only English-speaking illustrations. Please feel free to suggest some interesting visualizations I might have missed, I’d be glad to add them !