How Crowdsourcing Can Supercharge Your In-House Brainstorming

Advertising executive Alex Faickney Osborn was frustrated. The storied firebrand of world-renowned advertising agency BBDO, he was less than impressed by the creative ideas his team had been bringing to the table. So in 1939, he began working on a process he believed would inspire his team and others to think outside the box and push each other to dream big. He shared that process with the world in his 1948 book Your Creative Power, calling it “brainstorming.”

Whether in the classroom, the conference room, or the boardroom, odds are you’ve taken part in some variation of this creative process.

There’s a reason for that: it works.

Groups can and do make each other better.

As cliche as it sounds, iron sharpens iron.

Well, most of the time, at least.

Despite brainstorming’s widespread popularity and ubiquitous application, it’s an approach that can be overused, wasting a great deal of time.

It also only works if the dynamic of the team brainstorming allows for equal and unrestrained participation, which can be a tall order when your team is a mashup of personalities.

As a result, different tweaks have been introduced over time to make brainstorming more effective and efficient. In a video for, Senior Editor Mark Wilson talked about some of those alterations, including “brainwriting.”

But regardless of whether you’re writing down ideas or shifting coffee cups by a few millimeters, there’s still an inherent limitation to team brainstorming: the team itself.

That’s not to say that your team isn’t wonderful or that they’re incapable of coming up with good ideas. But they are, at the end of the day, existing within your culture.

Over time, thought patterns can become increasingly homogeneous on your team, as members learn each other’s quirks and adapt to each other’s needs. That homogeneity can have a significant impact on not just demonstrated creativity but creative capacity.

Does that mean brainstorming is worthless?

Of course not.

But it might mean that your brainstorming efforts need a shock to the system, and crowdsourcing creative work can do just that.

Crowdsourcing is often discussed in terms of convenience and value for your dollar. Those are absolutely some of the associated benefits. But really, the primary benefit of crowdsourcing is that you get a litany of ideas presented to you by a diverse group of creatives.

That’s fantastic when you’re looking for a great logo design, website design, or tagline, but the projects you commission via crowdsourcing do not exist in a vacuum. They’re collateral that will interact with several other elements in your overall marketing strategy. And that’s how crowdsourcing creative work can be uniquely beneficial to a marketing team in a rut. Seeing a wide array of creative concepts associated with your value proposition or upcoming initiative can help do what in-house brainstorming alone could not: spurring truly unique ideas from your team.