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Participation in IT-supported ideas competition: The influence of user activity on idea generation and idea evaluation

IT-based design contests are considered a very promising form of customer integration. A study carried out by Winfrid Ebner from the Technische Universität München in Germany examines the relationship between participants’ activity in such contests and the quality of the submitted ideas. As part of the research, a design idea competition was carried out over the SAPiens idea community. Log file analysis, quantitative and qualitative interviews and document analysis were conducted through a longitudinal study of the design contest. A cluster analysis of participant’s activities identified two particularly active groups: Very Active Participants (VAPs) and Idea Evaluators. Through triangulation of different methods and the resulting data collected, it was found that VAPs form a dense social network that stimulates creativity and puts them in a position where, compared to other groups, a greater number of higher-quality ideas can be generated. Furthermore, it was shown that the ​​ratings given by Idea Evaluators – users who only evaluate  the ideas of other participants – agree with the independent evaluation by experts. The results of this study has important implications for improving and controlling idea contests.

The findings suggest that the greater the activity level of an idea generator, the more valuable it is for the idea competition. Therefore, most active idea generators should be addressed directly by the competition organizer and be encouraged to participate. Organizers or operators of the community should try to involve the most active participants in the structure and organization of the ideas competition. In this way VAPs achieve a social recognition, which will motivate them to further activities on the online platform. Also, participants can make a pre-selection of ideas which than can be judged by the jury, or be directly involved in the competition by evaluating ideas. Experts often tend to favor ideas with short-term benefits, easy to understand and consistent with the prevailing social norms, while risky, time consuming or original ideas are likely to be rejected, as these could bring negative consequences for the organization. Therefore, ideas, which have a large discrepancy between a positive review of VAPs or Idea Evaluators and a negative expert review, could therefore in principle have a high disruptive potential, and forma the basis for disruptive innovations.

For further information regarding this study, please refer to the following paper (in German):

Blohm, Ivo und Ebner, Winfried und Leimeister, Jan Marco und Krcmar, Helmut (2011): “Was bringen die aktivsten Teilnehmer in IT-gestützten Ideenwettbewerben? Der Einfluss von Teilnehmer-Aktivität auf Ideengenerierung und Ideenbewertung.” In: 73. Wissenschaftliche Jahrestagung des Verbandes der Hochschullehrer für Betriebswirtschaft e.V. Nachhaltigkeit. Unternehmerisches Handeln in globaler Verantwortung, Kaiserslautern.

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