Crowdsourcing + Gamification = Impact

By Jim Ellis

There’s a long tradition of drawing upon the wisdom of the crowd to answer questions or solve complex challenges. Crowdsourcing is engaging the collective wisdom of an online or virtual community for a common goal: to gather ideas, stimulate innovation, solve problems or increase efficiency. Think of crowdsourcing as brainstorming on a massive scale.

The Internet has increased the exchange of information and ideas exponentially, making it easy to solicit and gather information from networked masses around the globe. Crowdsourcing is being used everywhere – from Wikipedia to corporate idea jams to product innovation groups. Crowdsourcing is even being used for significant global problems, such as helping health care workers find better ways to fight Ebola.

So, how do you get people to take part in crowdsourcing? In some cases, asking participants to volunteer for the sake of a personal interest or cause they believe in may be sufficient. Sometimes, more motivation may be necessary to yield good results. An obvious solution would be to pay participants – for example, offering a nominal gift card for their time.

If payment is not an option, gamification can be a great driver. Just adding the elements of competition or reward can increase people’s desire to contribute to crowdsourcing initiatives. Here are a few examples of pairing game mechanics and crowdsourcing.

  • Pediatric oncologists were looking for a way to help sick kids keep up with their pain diaries – which is tough when they’re feeling the fatigue of chemotherapy and other treatments. The Pain Squad iPhone app engages kids as “detectives” helping find a cure for cancer by logging their information. New users start out as “rookies” and progress up to “police chief” as they complete activities.
  • Have you ever had a great idea for a Lego set? On Lego IDEAS, your vision may become reality. Users share a project description on the site and gather online support against competitors. 10,000 supporters qualifies your project for official Lego review. Many ideas have gone on to become successful products marketed worldwide. 
  • Syngenta Thoughtseeders reaches out to R&D scientists for coveted partnership opportunities. Signal partnered with Syngenta on this program designed to help encourage collaboration and new ideas from third parties.
  • The Good Growth Plan is another Syngenta initiative addressing the challenge of sustainably feeding the growing global population. Signal helped them hold a contest offering grants for the best idea submissions.
  • Games are not only providing a platform for innovation in R&D – they’re helping to cure diseases! Foldit is an online game that challenges players to fold proteins. In 2011, gamers solved the riddle of an HIV enzyme’s structure (a challenge which had stumped scientists for a decade) in just three weeks – allowing researchers to target drug treatment. The opportunity to compete against other gamers to solve a real-world problem was a big draw.

Hungry for more? Check out our new Game of Gamification white paper to see how different organizations are using game techniques in crowdsourcing initiatives. You’ll also get concrete steps to incorporate gamification into your marketing and communications strategy.

Jim Ellis

Partner / VP Business Development

Jim joined Signal in 1999, bringing us his formidable skills in project management, client relations and number-crunching. He became a partner in 2017. Jim manages the business development team and offers seasoned expertise in account management, digital marketing and brand strategy. As a songwriter and musician with a business degree, he believes this “dual personality” gives him the understanding needed to be an effective liaison between business owners and Signal’s talented creative team. Originally from Ohio, Jim graduated from the University of Richmond with a B.S. in Business Administration.

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