Internal vs external crowdsourcing (and when you can use both!)

A headshot of Judy Garvey

by Judy Garvey

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If you are considering a crowdsourcing project, you might be looking at creating a new product or service, or looking to improve a current product, service or process. As with any brainstorming exercise, your ideas might only be as good as the people that you bring in. It is best to examine what it is you are trying to achieve, and who might be able to help you achieve it. This selection will depend on the challenge at hand.

Crowdsourcing does not have to mean that you have to make your challenge completely public. Choosing your ‘crowd’ wisely may be the first step to finding the best ideas for the challenge at hand. First, ask the question: Who will be the end user, or the group most affected by the outcome of this challenge?

Internal Crowdsourcing

If your answer is ‘our employees,’ then it is likely that they are the best group to tap into for ideas. Internal crowdsourcing is generally defined as outsourcing work to a group of volunteers within an organization - in this case, the crowd is usually comprised of employees. These employees do not always have to be the end user and/or affected group.

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Many organizations turn to internal crowdsourcing when the challenge involves processes that may require some sort of localized or background knowledge to be solved effectively, and this knowledge typically lies within the company.

Internal crowdsourcing, which is sometimes referred to as enterprise crowdsourcing, has been successfully employed by large organizations, with workforces that can be spread out across different sites. A crowdsourcing activity spread out across these groups can yield a diverse collection of ideas even though the challenge is internal. Another advantage of an internal crowdsourcing is that the implementation of ideas will be faster and more straight-forward.

External Crowdsourcing

If the end user of your challenge is ‘our customers,’ it might be a good idea to explore external crowdsourcing. External crowdsourcing poses the challenge usually to the general public. The work can be outsourced to anyone, or it could be outsourced to specific groups that might have interest and/or specialized expertise suited to the challenge.

Read Next: 7 Tips for Crowdsourcing Designs for New Products

Companies might consider employing external crowdsourcing if they are looking to come up with ideas that may not arise within their organizations because they might be too close to the issue at hand. An external crowd can help come up with outside-the-box types of ideas. They can lend experience, expertise and insights that the organization might not have.

How To Use Both

Crowd Challenges can also be opened up to both internal and external audiences to reap the benefits of both. This challenge can then become more collaborative, as employees can help provide knowledge and background information on the challenge, while external participants can provide an outsider’s perspective.

Getting employees involved in crowdsourcing challenges, which have external end users also helps promote employee engagement, and can be a way for companies to show their employees that they are valuable to the company. On the other end, bringing in external crowds alongside employees in a crowdsourcing exercise can help creative consumers (who are also likely to be loyal customers) feel like they are valued as well.

Check out our Innovation & Crowdsourcing page for more.

Both internal and external crowdsourcing can bring benefits to your ideation process. If you want to learn more about how you can use internal or external crowdsourcing, or implement a combination of both, contact us today!

Our community managers can help you develop the best recruitment strategy to help you tap into the wisdom of the crowd and generate ideas that drive both innovation and customer engagement.

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