The Principle of Self-Selection in Crowdsourcing Contests – Theory and Evidence

Paper by Nikolaus Franke, Kathrin Reinsberger and Philipp Topic: “Self-selection has been portrayed to be one of the core reasons for the stunning success of crowdsourcing. It is widely believed that among the mass of potential problem solvers particularly those individuals decide to participate who have the best problem-solving capabilities with regard to the problem at question. Extant research assumes that this self-selection effect is beneficial based on the premise that self-selecting individuals know more about their capabilities and knowledge than the publisher of the task – which frees the organization from costly and error-prone active search.

However, the effectiveness of this core principle has hardly been analyzed, probably because it is extremely difficult to investigate characteristics of those individuals who self-select out. In a unique research design in which we overcome these difficulties by combining behavioral data from a real crowdsourcing contest with data from a survey and archival data, we find that self-selection is actually working in the right direction. Those with particularly strong problem-solving capabilities tend to self-select into the contest and those with low capabilities tend to self-select out. However, this self-selection effect is much weaker than assumed and thus much potential is being lost. This suggests that much more attention needs to be paid to the early stages of crowdsourcing contests and particularly to those the hitherto almost completely overlooked individuals who could provide great solutions but self-select out.”…(More)”.