Towards a characterization of crowdsourcing practices

Par Eric Schenk, Claude Guittard
The word Crowdsourcing –a compound contraction of Crowd and Outsourcing, was used by Howe in order to define outsourcing to the crowd. Beyond cost, benefits for the company can be substantial. It can externalize the risk of failure and it only pays for products or services that meet its expectations. The Crowdsourcing phenomenon covers heterogeneous situations and it has inspired a number of authors. However, we are still lacking a general and synthetic view of this concept. The aim of our work is to characterize Crowdsourcing in its various aspects. First we define of Crowdsourcing, and provide examples that illustrate the diversity of Crowdsourcing practices and we present similarities and differences between Crowdsourcing and established theories (Open Innovation, User Innovation and Open Source Software). Then, we propose and illustrate a typology of Crowdsourcing practices based on two criteria: the integrative or selective nature of the process and the type of tasks that are crowd sourced (simple, complex and creative tasks). In either case, the client firm seeks to mobilize external competencies. Relying upon the crowd can be an adequate method, because of its unique characteristics that are fostered by the Internet. Finally, we present some potential benefits and pitfalls of Crowdsourcing.
JEL Codes: O32, L17, L24, L29, M19
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