Highlights - May 2017

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From Wikipedia to ninety-nine designs, and Google to LEGO, crowdsourcing has changed the way the world does business.

By partnering with the masses through innovative campaigns, companies can benefit from a vast amount of expertise, enthusiasm and goodwill, rather than from paid labor.

But what’s in it for the crowd?

Why do ordinary people sign on to help design or produce a product without much compensation?  Why do they volunteer their time and skills to a company that profits?  And how can a firm better address the crowd’s needs in order to maximize value for all involved in the co-creation project?

Researchers at the John Molson School of Business, investigated these questions in a new article published by the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research. For the study they looked at two cases: Threadless, a growing company that uses the wisdom of the crowds to produce artistic T-shirts, and a Montreal-based startup that sought to use the same model for fashion accessories.

The researchers observed participants in the local startup, conducted interviews with community members and carefully monitored online forums to see who was participating and why — as well as what was in it for them.

The researchers then analyzed the similarities and differences between the techniques successfully implemented by Threadless and the startup.

“Even though the startup ultimately didn’t succeed, the research provided an invaluable opportunity to understand what works in co-creation projects and what does not.  This allowed the researchers to explain why people participate in co-creation projects and what benefits they receive, other than monetary compensation.”

Their findings are the first to show that there are four different types of members volunteering in these communities, labeled communals, utilizers, aspirers, and tourists:

  1. Communals build skills and community bonds.
  2. Utilizers join the communities to sharpen their skills without much intention to form social bonds.
  3. Aspirers lack both skills and bonds, but aim to gain more of both.
  4. Tourists are minimally invested in both community and skills and infrequently participate.

For some members, the bonds...

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