Users gave the computer firm Dell 20.000 new ideas

And 550 of those ideas have already been implemented. The idea system relies on crowdsourcing and uses digital platforms to establish contact with new users all over the world.

2013.11.06 | Lillan Hasslund

Several Danish companies – both large and small – are starting to open their eyes to the benefits of crowdsourcing, which is a new way of organising innovation. Via the internet and online platforms, companies can get in contact with users around the world and generate thousands of new ideas for developing new products, marketing strategies, etc. The computer firm Dell is a good example. Via their “IdeaStorm” website, Dell has reached tens of thousands of users all over the world. They received 20,000 new ideas, 99,000 users have supplied comments – and 550 of those ideas have already been implemented. 

“A company needs to be challenged. The examples show that the quality of the innovation depends on the diversity of the group of people that the company is able to involve.  LEGO, Dell and Starbucks use these so-called ‘Idea Management Systems,’ where all content is derived from external contributors – and they do so with great success,” explains Assistant Professor Carsten Bergenholtz from the School of Business and Social Sciences, the Department of Business Administration at Aarhus University.

Carsten Bergenholtz conducts research on innovation, social media and Idea Management Systems, and together with Professor Lars Frederiksen he also holds workshops for companies interested in working with crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing requires resources
He emphasises that crowdsourcing requires that the company is willing to allocate plenty of resources to the project.

“If the company does not communicate with its tens of thousands of users, it will likely result in really bad publicity. In order to avoid bad branding, this form of innovation therefore requires that it is taken seriously,” he says.

This autumn, researchers at Stanford University in California published a study describing how 24,000 companies make use of crowdsourcing. The survey shows that 90% of these companies did not succeed in fully implementing the process. The companies need to engage with and address the users’ ideas and comments, provide feedback and be transparent about which ideas they actually choose to put into practice. 

BP got 120,000 ideas on how to solve oil spill crisis
“In connection with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico three years ago, via their online platforms, BP were able to gather 120,000 ideas on how to solve the oil spill crisis. BP told their users that unfortunately they were unable to use any of the ideas that came in. But typically, it is hard to find enough resources to be able to handle the vast amount of incoming information,” says Carsten Bergenholtz.

Using crowdsourcing internally
Large companies with around 100,000 employees can benefit from using crowdsourcing internally within the company, e.g. via an intranet. A collaboration of researchers from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm have shown that a company of this magnitude can generate 35,000 new ideas and get 70,000 comments.

Through the use of crowdsourcing, they received many financially valuable ideas from their own employees. This approach furthermore has the benefit of motivating employees and inspiring them. And it is decisive that such initiatives be incorporated into the company’s overall strategy and organisational structure.

“If the company is unable to implement this process on their own, they also have the option of hiring the company InnoCentive, which is a website with 250,000 registered users. When a user offers a solution to a specific problem, he/she will receive a cash reward. For instance, through InnoCentive, NASA have managed to improve their ability to anticipate the movements of the sun,” explains Carsten Bergenholtz.

Growing interest
He emphasises that among researchers and companies, both large and small, there is a growing interest in crowdsourcing. And it is a clear path to growth, precisely because it enables companies to reach completely new audiences.

Further information (Stanford study)





Economics and Business Economics