About motivation factors in crowdsourcing

Gary Oldham

The motivation that makes the crowd to participate is one of the most interesting and fundamental issues about crowdsourcing. Why some crowdsourcing initiatives attract a large crowd while others fall by the wayside? There are many factors that can influence, but in the end, the motivation of the crowd is one of the keys.

In 1976, Greg Oldham wrote a paper entitled “The motivational strategies used by supervisors: Relationships to effectiveness indicators” in which lists the factors that both facilitate and hinder motivation. Despite the time elapsed since the paper was written (I was not even born) and although the article focuses on tasks performed within a company, some of these factors, at least in the field of crowdsourcing, remain in full force.

One of the factors of success that Oldham exposes is the clear understanding of the task or work that has to be done. When a task is proposed to the crowd, they should know exactly what is expected from them, what they have to do. This gives security to crowdworkers and ensures a high percentage of well-performed tasks.

Another factor explained by Oldham as a positive factor for motivation is to provide rewards and praises. As I discussed in different posts, the reward for the crowd is one of the key motivational factors. A suitable reward will cause the crowd to participate and get involved, but an insufficient reward won’t motivate the people to participate and will give bad image to the company or individual who launched the initiative. Regarding the reward, it is important to clarify that it must be consistent with the task. For a company to pay $ 5.00 per tag 5 images in a AMT task, is a disproportionate reward. Yes, many people will attend, but it won’t be cost effective for the company.

It’s important to highlight that the best situation is that in which an intrinsic motivation that drives the user to perform the task without an incentive or reward from another person appears. The prototypical example, that many authors cite, is Linux. In this project, the crowd participates for fun, professional standing, improving skills, etc.. However, getting this kind of motivation in the crowd is quite difficult.

Among the other factors listed by Oldham, there are some of them that different crowdsourcing researchers like Daren Brabham have identified as important motivational factors. These motivational factors are that the task should imply the use of creativity and that it should imply the development of personal skills.

Another factor mentioned by Oldham and that could be important in crowdsourcing is to communicate to the crowd how their work contributes to achieving organizational goals. I think this factor can be very important, especially in the case of crowdsourcing initiatives that stem from companies whose main crowd are their customers. The crowd will further assess the work done and also will identify more with that organization.

As you can notice, this latter factor and the factor related to the praises, involves certain contact with the crowd. Therefore, crowdsourcing initiatives must be guided by someone to accompany and lead the crowd in addition to resolve their concerns or questions. This “someone” is the crowdmanager. This is obviously a role that shares many features with the Community Manager role, but also adds the duties arising from the peculiarities of crowdsourcing.



Oldham, G: “The motivational strategies used by supervisors: Relationships to effectiveness indicators”.Organizational Behaviour and Human Perfomance, nº 15, 1976 (atención al old fashion style 😉 )

One comment

  1. I think motivation is most important factor that is needed for self progress and for the crowdsourcing. It is really nice to know about Greg Oldham. I agree with his ideas of providing rewards and praises for motivation. I think this article about motivation is really an amazing one and I hope such articles are posted often.

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