Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Understanding Crowdsourcing

Organisations increasingly outsource activities to volunteers that they approach via an open call on the internet. The phenomenon is called ‘crowd sourcing’ and Irma Borst defended her PhD thesis about crowdsourcing successfully at Erasmus University.

For an effective use of crowd sourcing,it is important to understand what motivates these online volunteers and what the influence of a reward system is. In her PhD dissertation entitled Understanding Crowdsourcing: Effects of motivation and rewards on participation and performance in voluntary online activities, Irma Borst examines the effects of motivation and rewards on the participation and performance of online community members. She studied motivation, rewards and contributions in three crowdsourcing initiatives that vary in reward systems.

Her research shows that persons that are mainly driven by intrinsic motivations are the best performers in absence of rewards. Still rewards can be an effective tool for firms using crowd sourcing since the proportion of mainly intrinsic motivated people is low. So although individual performance decrease when providing rewards, group performance is increasing. The results also show that effects of financial rewards, differ from reputation rewards. And finally, she showed that effects of extreme money rewards, disturb generally positive effects of motivation on behaviour.

The findings of the three studies have resulted in a refined model of the effects of rewards and motivation on voluntary behaviour. The results described in this dissertation also have important implications for organisers of online communities, amongst others, regarding the effective application of reward systems. Borst also provides a crowd sourcing typology based on their reward systems and she identifies the motivation profiles of optimal performers per crowd sourcing type.

You can download her thesis here.

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