Idea Contests: How to Design Feedback for an Efficient Contest
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Inviting the public or a targeted group of individuals to submit their ideas or solutions to a specific problem or challenge within a predefined period of time is called an “idea contest.” Idea contests are the straightforward mechanism to solicit and leverage the innovation and the intelligence of thousands of individuals. With the advent of the Internet, companies can easily organize idea contests with an easy access for anyone to participate from anywhere around the world. A contest organizer needs to design a contest so that more individuals are encouraged to participate, generate more innovative ideas/solutions, and to remain active throughout the contest. In my dissertation, I explore the effects of idea contest parameters –such as award size and structure, contest duration, the visibility of submissions, and the feedback- on the participation, motivation, and performance of individuals before and after joining a contest. Feedback, as the primary focus of my dissertation, is a less studied parameter in the context of idea contests. In my first essay, I investigate the relative importance of each contest design parameter, particularly feedback, with each other in motivating individuals to participate in a contest. In this regard, I both ran a conjoint study among real designers and collected online data from 99designs website. Feedback plays an important role in increasing the likelihood of participation and the participation rate for an idea contest. In the second essay, I explore the effect of two different types of feedback –absolute vs. relative- on the performance of participants during an idea contest. By running a real contest with participants from a major public university, I measured how participants in an idea contest react to different types of feedback. The likelihood of revising ideas as well as the quality of ideas submitted were the primary dependent variables in this field experiment.