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What is Crowdsourcing and Open Innovation?


Crowdsourcing Definition

The following integrated definition of crowdsourcing was proposed recently by Enrique Estellés-Arolas and Fernando González-Ladrón-de-Guevara1:

“Crowdsourcing is a type of participative online activity in which an individual, an institution, a non-profit organization, or company proposes to a group of individuals of varying knowledge, heterogeneity, and number, via a flexible open call, the voluntary undertaking of a task. The undertaking of the task, of variable complexity and modularity, and in which the crowd should participate bringing their work, money, knowledge and/or experience, always entails mutual benefit. The user will receive the satisfaction of a given type of need, be it economic, social recognition, self-esteem, or the development of individual skills, while the crowdsourcer will obtain and utilize to their advantage that what the user has brought to the venture, whose form will depend on the type of activity undertaken.”  

Open Innovation Definition

Although the idea of open innovation and interfirm collaboration in research and development date back to at least the 60s, the term "open innovation" was promoted by Henry Chesbrough, a professor and executive director at the Center for Open Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley.  This is the definition of open innovation he gave on page 1 of his 2006 book Open Innovation: Researching a New Paradigm2.

"Open innovation is the use of purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation, and expand the markets for external use of innovation, respectively. [This paradigm] assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as they look to advance their technology."  

Some Applications of Crowdsourcing and Open Innovation

1.  Advancing R&D:  "Beyond high tech: early adopters of open innovation in other industries",  Henry Chesbrough and Adrienne Kardon Crowther, R&D Management, Volume 36, Issue 3, pages 229–236, June 2006

2.  Reducing business spending:   "Tips for Crowdsourcing, Innovation, and Savings" by Jessica Day:

3.  Diagnosing disease:  "WEB MDs" by Alice Park:,9171,2120502,00.html

4.  Generating new policy ideas for the government :  "The central platform for crowdsourcing US government challenges":  

Examples of Crowdsourcing and Open Innovation Websites

1. Open innovation and crowdsourcing platforms:

2. Top 10 Crowdsourcing Sites for Startups:

3. OutSourcing, CrowdSourcing or Open-Innovation Websites:

4. List of websites that solicit ideas from the public :  


1.  Enrique Estellés-Arolas and Fernando González-Ladrón-de-Guevara,  "Towards an integrated crowdsourcing definition"  Journal of Information Science, April 2012, vol. 38 no. 2, pp. 189-200

2.  Henry Chesbrough, Wim Vanhaverbeke and Joel West, eds., Open Innovation: Researching a New Paradigm. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. ISBN: 0-19-929072-5.          

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