Surprising Results from Large Crowds Using Micro-Purchase Challenges - Using Contests on Freelancing Communities to Source Innovative, Impactful and Cost-Effective Solutions.

Published on September 27, 2018


Our world is more connected than ever before. The new digital economy is empowering platforms and crowds to become a progressively strategic way for organizations to innovate ahead of their competition. Existing research shows the effectiveness and quality of solutions crowdsourcing yields, yet few organizations genuinely understand it nor are leveraging those solutions to unlock the full range of benefits. Moreover, early adopters often face structural and financial barriers towards evangelizing digital platforms at scale within their organizations. NASA is an exception - being an advocate of the field since 2010, it has paved the path for large organizations to follow. An empirical analysis is conducted on NASA’s Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI) micro-purchase challenges on a crowd-based platform to assess the cost-savings, quality of work, time for work turnaround and brand effects of using this problem-solving mechanism. The results proved to provide a tangible impact on all four parameters. As such, micro-purchases could become a compelling entry-point for organizations who are willing to experiment and subsequently build a convincing business case to present to stakeholders. The paper concludes with NASA’s learnings, supplemented by literature, on how to redesign business processes, change conventional thinking and create an organization that will transform its future with crowds.


Peter Phillips

VP of Engineering @

Sarah Z. Tang

VP of Enterprise @

Steven N. Rader

NASA, Johnson Space Center Deputy Manager, Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI)

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