Crowdsourced Idea Convergence

Innovation funnel - introduction


Open innovation contests constitute a good way to drive research and development as well as obtain innovative ideas developed by a large crowd of people. Historically, innovation contests have been around for a long time. Notable examples include an innovation contest for developing a substitute for butter in 1869, which led to the invention of margarine, finding a method of accurately determining a ship’s longitude in 1714, or "The Daily Mail prize for crossing the Atlantic" from 1913, which led to the first nonstop flight across the atlantic in 1919 [1].

With the advance in information and communication technology, innovation contests have moved online. Online platforms allow users to competitively disclose their creative ideas to corporations and also to interact and collaborate with like-minded peers. This collaboration can happen in the form of communicating, discussing, and sharing insights and experiences, building social networks, and establishing a sense of community [2]. The goal of an innovation contest is to identify the winning ideas among a pile of many idea submissions. Online innovation contests can result in hundreds and thousands of submissions. The process of reducing many generated ideas to a few promising ideas is called convergence.

The phases of innovation contests can be visualized with the Innovation Funnel, which is wide at the beginning and narrows down towards the end. The innovation funnel features up to four phases, namely the generation phase, the filtering phase, the shortlisting phase, and the winner determination phase. The process of identifying a winning idea is challenging due to multiple selection challenges (click here to see them). Sifting through this large pile of ideas requires a well thought out strategy. For this purpose, organizations make use of selection methods to design effective selection processes and to prevent negative consequences, which could slow down the process or hinder the selection of the best idea(s) (click here to see the selection methods). The innovation funnel is based on the "Product Development Funnel" by [3], but has been adapted to show the convergence process at the example of innovation contests.
In the following, we provide selected details of the four phases of innovation contests. Click here to see the innovation funnel in practice.


  1. Adamczyk, S., Bullinger, A. C., & Möslein, K. M. (2012). Innovation contests: A review, classification and outlook. Creativity and Innovation Management, 21(4), 335-360.
  2. Hutter, K., Hautz, J., Füller, J., Mueller, J., & Matzler, K. (2011). Communitition: The tension between competition and collaboration in community‐based design contests. Creativity and innovation management, 20(1), 3-21.
  3. Wheelwright. S. C. and Clark. K. B., 1992, Revolutionizing Product Development, The Free Press, New York.
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