The rise of crowdsourcing platforms as a potential source for innovative ideas presents a challenge: How do you attract contributors to work on your particular problem?1 Past research has demonstrated the importance of well-crafted problem statements as a means to attract more innovative solutions.2 But what really goes into a problem statement that engages the crowd? Do the statements that attract a large number of proposed ideas share common elements?
Our research sought to answer these questions by unpacking problem statements, word by word, to identify the characteristics that attract the most idea submissions. Our analysis points to guidelines for managers tapping crowdsourcing sites on do’s and don’ts when writing a problem statement meant to attract solutions from creative freelancers.
We used data from Eÿeka, an online crowdsourcing platform focused on creative projects. Our findings are based on an analysis of 362 unique problem statements posted by 85 companies between 2016 and 2018. The statements sought ideas for marketing and social media campaigns, solutions to complex issues, proposals for products, and recommendations for entering new markets. The average number of responses received for each statement was 88; the highest number received was 370 and the lowest was five. We found that those receiving an above-average number of submissions shared some common elements — and we also identified four approaches to avoid when presenting a challenge to the crowd.