Distinguishing 'Crowded' Organizations from Groups and Communities: Is Three a Crowd?

December 06, 2016 by

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In conventional wisdom on crowdsourcing, the number of people define the crowd and maximizing this number is often assumed to be the goal of any crowdsourcing exercise. However, we propose that there are structural characteristics of the crowd that might be more important than the sheer number of participants. These characteristics include (1) growth rate and its attractiveness to the members, (2) the equality among members, (3) the density within provisional boundaries, (4) the goal orientation of the crowd, and (5) the "seriality" of the interactions between members of the crowd. We then propose a typology that may allow managers to position their companies’ initiatives among four strategic types: crowd crystals, online communities, closed crowd, and open crowd driven innovation. We show that incumbent companies may prefer a closed and controlled access to the crowd, limiting the potential for gaining results and insights from fully open crowd-driven innovation initiatives. Consequently, we argue that the effects on industries and organizations by open crowds are still to be explored, possibly via the mechanisms of entrepreneurs exploiting open crowds as new entrants, but also for the configuration of industries such as, e.g., finance, pharmaceuticals, or even the public sector where the value created usually comes from interpretation issues and exploratory problem solving.