Create a Crowd Competition That Works

Ahmad Ashkar in HBR Blog Network: “It’s no secret that people in business are turning to the crowd to solve their toughest challenges. Well-known sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo allow people to raise money for new projects. Design platforms like Crowdspring and 99designs give people the tools needed to crowdsource graphic design ideas and feedback.
At the Hult Prize — a start-up accelerator that challenges Millennials to develop innovative social enterprises to solve our world’s most pressing issues (and rewards the top team with $1,000,000 in start-up capital) — we’ve learned that the crowd can also offer an unorthodox solution in developing innovative and disruptive ideas, particularly ones focused on tackling complex, large-scale social issues.
But to effectively harness the power of the crowd, you have to engage it carefully. Over the past four years, we’ve developed a well-defined set of principles that guide our annual “challenge,” (lauded by Bill Clinton in TIME magazine as one of the top five initiatives changing the world for the better) that produces original and actionable ideas to solve social issues.
Companies like Netflix, General Electric, and Proctor & Gamble have also started “challenging the crowd” and employing many of these principles to tackle their own business roadblocks. If you’re looking to spark disruptive and powerful ideas that benefit your company, follow these guidelines to launch an engaging competition:
1. Define the boundaries
2. Identify a specific and bold stretch target. …
3. Insist on low barriers to entry. …
4. Encourage teams and networks. …
5. Provide a toolkit. Once interested parties become participants in your challenge, provide tools to set them up for success. If you are working on a social problem, you can use IDEO’s human-centered design toolkit. If you have a private-sector challenge, consider posting it on an existing innovation platform. As an organizer, you don’t have to spend time recreating the wheel — use one of the many existing platforms and borrow materials from those willing to share.”