Internal Crowdsourcing

How larger organizations can take better advantage of existing resources


Crowdsourcing is a terrific way to find a clever solution to a tricky problem, or to survey the community for new ideas.  It’s frequently used as a way of getting fresh perspectives on problems or issues from outside the organization.  After all, you already know all the capabilities and resources available within your organization - or maybe not.  For larger organizations, and sometimes smaller ones too, this isn’t always the case.  In large organizations, you know your colleagues represent more capabilities than their day to day responsibilities reflect.  But how do you tap into that potential?  This is where internal crowdsourcing comes in.


Running an internal crowdsourcing project is a great way to garner new ideas from a crowd that is already familiar with your constraints and concerns.  It lets you learn things about your colleagues that might not show up in a resume or performance review.  It can also be an agent for change management.  Actions always speak louder than words, and the act of implementing an internal challenge and then following through with the backend results can be very powerful.


Depending on your goals and objectives, your challenge topic can be narrow and specific, broad and strategic, or anything in between.  For example, maybe you’re struggling to improve morale and increase engagement levels within your organization, or maybe you are looking for specific suggestions to help your organization move towards a circular economy.  You could ask employees to post suggestions at an internal board, or hire a consultant to develop an action plan.  Another approach is to run an internal challenge.

How does it work?


Internal crowdsourcing works just like regular crowdsourcing - the difference is that your crowd is your organization.  You still need to:

  • Design your challenge - This is the most important part of the entire process.  A well-designed challenge piques your organization’s interest by using accessible language, clearly defining the request, and describing what success looks like.  Are there ideas you’re not interested in, or areas in which you would specifically like to receive ideas?  This is where you share that, along with other information - like the criteria by which submissions will be judged.

  • Promote the challenge - Once you’ve designed your challenge and launched it at the HeroX platform, you still need to get the word out to raise awareness of its existence.  As an internal effort, you can take full advantage of all the avenues for communication within your organization to help promote the challenge.  A steady drumbeat of reminders about the challenge will keep it foremost in everyone’s minds, especially as the submission deadline approaches.

  • Review submissions and select the challenge winners - The exciting part is reviewing and evaluating all the great ideas that have come in.  The time and effort you invested in the design phase really pays off because you and the other members of the evaluation team are able to easily review all the submissions, thanks to the complete and thoughtfully designed set of judging criteria previously developed.  At the end of the process, you select and announce the winners.

What’s in it for them?


A successful challenge needs great participation from the community.  Once your organization has learned of the challenge, what is the motivation for them to participate?  Money is a common award for crowdsourcing projects, but it is rarely the most important factor in driving participation.  Studies from the Laboratory of Innovation Science at Harvard (LISH) show that money is actually not the leading reason people choose to participate in a challenge.  For an internal challenge, this is particularly true.  




Within an organization, individuals participate because they have an idea, they want to be heard and seen, they want to contribute, and/or they want access to opportunities to which they might not have otherwise - to name just a few reasons.  For example, when Ameritas decided to run an internal challenge, one of the winning teams donated their award to a charity of their choice.  They appreciated winning a cash award, but what they valued most was the opportunity to engage with leadership and be heard.  Knowing this, consider including non-monetary incentives as part of your internal challenge.  These incentives could include: an opportunity to present the winning idea to senior leadership, visibility within the organization, or even extra vacation days.

What’s in it for you?

In addition to providing solutions to pressing problems, internal crowdsourcing can help you learn about individual strengths within your organization.  Running these types of projects regularly can increase engagement levels within your organization and be an element in developing and maintaining a culture of innovation.  The exercise of concisely defining a problem and its definition of success is very powerful and can help to better align a team.

What’s next?

If this concept is interesting to you, read the case study about Ameritas’ experience.  If you have specific questions and would like to speak with an expert — email us at   Additionally, you can read more about crowdsourcing by visiting our Resources page at

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Eloise Young

Crowdsourcing Specialist

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