Crowdsourcing Offers a New and Wider Path to Innovation

GE, Allstate try crowdsourcing contests where external brainiacs compete to produce the best answers to big-data analytics questions.

If two heads are better than one, are 45,000 heads spectacular? That's the promise of crowdsourcing. Companies can find new ideas faster and sometimes at a lower cost than internal innovation.

[Related: Crowdsourcing Offers a Tightly Focused Alternative to Outsourcing]

But putting business problems out for public brainwork could expose sensitive information and strategic plans. And contest-winning ideas, developed in isolated laboratory conditions with squeaky-clean data, can't always be translated to the unpredictable real world, says Anand Rao, a principal at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

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