Idea Constest are not only recognized by Open Innovation scholars as a great method to benefit from customer experience, they are also a fairly popular tool to foster end- or lead-user integration into the design and development process.
Setting up a successful idea contest, however, requires a lot of dedication, know-how and legwork. This has shown to be a major barrier for many companies who still do not exploit the (full) potential of crowdsourcing and co-creation.
For those ventures who do not want (or can not afford) to hire an open innovation expert of their own, outsourcing to social media specialists can be a viable, yet still not exactly cheap solution. As a result, a number of companies are now starting to offer idea contests as a (web) service. Their concept is that experienced users can create idea contests very easily and at low cost, sometimes even free (a conventional idea contest by a full-service agency costs easily US$50K or more)
An example for this trend are Pitchburner and Skild.
Pitchburner, located in Lincoln, NE, has specialized in supporting online-hosted events, amongst them all kinds of innovation competitions.
Pitchburner's platform allows innovation managers (or any staff member) to simply put together a complete idea contest by using a simple interface to define the constest's setup, marketing, participant registration, submissions, judges, idea evaluation and so on.
Pitchburner offers a free basic version, allowing you do host simple contests as well as two more sophisticated premium and enterprise packages (like multiple rounds, advanced tracking-, messaging- and analytics features, automation of many otherwise tiresome processes and much more).
An interesting part of using a platform like this is the ability to use preexisting template system. Designing a well-looking constes website with all relevant subpages, forms and functionality takes time and requires experienced (hence costly) personel.
Sending emails to all of your participants or judges by the use of the platform's built-in mailing templates is likely faster and less complicated than doing so from your mail client. And if you have ever tried to keep records of an idea contest with 5.000 participants in your standard spreadsheet-software, you probably know how much headache a well-build database can save.
A similar service is offered by SKILD, a new brand by idea contest pioneer idea crossing, one of the most experienced companies in the field in the USA.
SKLID is comparable to pitchburner in many regards, however, they do offer a more complete package of support services. These are not part of the platform, hence not automated, but are "real", traditional coaching and support on tasks like program and marketing strategy, rules development, research, advanced custom design, social media-, technology- and security support, advise on prizes and advances analysis of user/ contest data.
Hence, they do combine the automated contest application with solutions for some of the points I will adress below.
- It is too early to investigate the impact of these offerings on the market for crowdsourcing, and I also personally have not yet tried one of these services for a real project. But the trend is there: Crowdsourcing is getting a broader and broader.
- The price level of these services is fantastic, and the platform's features include everything one needs for a professional ideation contest.
- But winning with an idea contest is much more than software: These platforms do not help you with ...
- asking the right question,
- formulating the right task.
- defining the rules of the game and legal terms,
- getting a feel for the right incentives,
- reaching a broad and new field of potential participants,
- (the majority of) community management,
- not making the beginner's mistakes again,
- defining a communication strategy for your contest,
- selecting the winner,
- programming an interface to existing customer databases or your internal R&D software system,
- But for experienced users and companies, these services are a great tool. The same may hold true for non-profit or even local organizations, hosting, e.g., an idea contest among their members. I am curious to see how this field will develop!