Crowdstorming: Three Patterns for Crowdsourcing Brainstorming

Crowdstorming, or soliciting ideas from crowds, is growing in popularity and importance. Shaun Abrahamson, who is co-author, along with Peter Ryder and Bastian Unterberg, of the new book "crowd storm: The Future of Innovation, Ideas and Problem Solving," shares three common patterns of crowdstorming projects.

The simplest crowdstorming projects are focused on gathering ideas (and finding the people and teams behind them). But the more complex patterns go further, involving the crowd in processes to select ideas but also to build upon and improve ideas.

Pattern 1: Search – The strength this pattern lies in its simplicity. The primary objective is to find participants and therefore the best strategies focus on generating awareness about the issue at hand. It is at the core of how successful venture investors find the next big idea and it’s how new designers are discovered via contests.

Pattern 2: Collaboration – At their simplest, collaboration patterns add a new role. They ask a crowd to vote or rate ideas and they use these votes to rank ideas. We’ve seen this work for more than a decade for products on and the creation of new celebrities on American Idol and it’s at the core of how Threadless picks great designs and how LEGO is discovering new product ideas via Cuusoo.

Pattern 3: Integrated – Integrated patterns are by far the most complex. They bind the crowd and the organization together tightly through lots of interactions, primarily focused on getting more feedback about ideas, not just to help with their selection, but to help make them better too.

Search patterns have yielded results for more than a century. And they are simplest to set up and manage. The collaboration and integrated patterns require more investment (in time and money) primarily in platforms, additional rewards and community management. Is this additional effort worth it? Early results say yes.

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