The Effect of Problem Formulation in Crowdsourcing: A quantitative analysis of how the level of abstraction in a problem formulation affects idea quality

Alexander Eriksson Ejdelind & John Rombin Karlsson

Student thesis: Master thesis


Abstract: In today’s businesses, the importance of innovation and innovation processes are ever so crucial and the paradigm of open innovation is being further investigated. Within open innovation, crowdsourcing is becoming particularly interesting as researchers are investigating its effect on the innovation process and companies recognizing its advantages in idea generation. A crucial link between the company and the crowd is the problem formulation, in which the companies express the problem and the solvers interpret and use it as foundation for solving the task. Therefore, the formulation of the problem could impact the ideas to be generated. This research investigates how the level of abstraction in the problem formulation affects the quality of the ideas generated in a crowdsourcing initiative and more specifically how a problem formulation written in a deep-structure manner affects the quality of the generated ideas, in relation to a domain-specific problem formulation. To explore this, the authors published two different problem formulations on an established crowdsourcing platform, one written in a deep-structure manner and one written in a domain-specific manner. Collecting the ideas and personal characteristics from the solvers allowed the authors to conduct a quantitative analysis how idea quality is affected by the level of abstraction in the problem formulation. Findings indicated that quality was enhanced by the abstract problem formulation, implying that it could be advantageous to formulate the problem in crowdsourcing in a deep-structure manner. An analysis of this kind can contribute to making the crowdsourcing process more efficient by guiding the firm in what to consider when articulating the challenge formulation when engaging in crowdsourcing. In turn, formulating the challenge question the most efficient way might enhance the quality of ideas generated and thereby adding to the value and future success of the firms’ products.

EducationsMSc in International Business, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2014
Number of pages89