Journal Article

Idea rejected, tie formed: Organizations' feedback on crowdsourced ideas

Academy of Management Journal
2018 EBS-SITE Best Paper Award Innovation Management
Henning Piezunka, Linus Dahlander
Subject(s): Strategy and general management, Technology, R&D management

When organizations crowdsource ideas, they ultimately select only a small share of the submitted ideas for implementation. Organizations generally provide no feedback on ideas they do not select. Contributors whose ideas are not selected for implementation tend to forego submitting ideas in the future. We suggest that organizations can increase contributors’ willingness to submit ideas in the future by giving a thus far understudied form of feedback: rejections. Drawing on social network theory, we develop the overarching argument that rejections lead contributors to bond with the organization, increasing their willingness to continue to interact with the organization. While it may be counterintuitive to associate rejections with bonding, we hypothesize that rejections indicate to contributors that the organization is interested both in receiving their ideas and in developing a relationship with them. This effect, we argue, is particularly pronounced when rejections provide newcomers with explanations that suggest to them that they and the organization are a good match. To test our theory, we examine the crowdsourcing efforts of 70, 159 organizations that receive ideas from 1,336,154 contributors. Using large-scale content analysis, we examine differences in how rejections are written in order to disentangle the mechanisms through which rejections affect contributors’ willingness to continue to interact with an organization. We find that getting a rejection has a positive effect on a newcomer’s willingness to submit idea in the future. The effect is stronger if the rejection includes an explanation, and is particularly pronounced if the explanation accompanying the rejection matches the original idea in terms of linguistic style.

With permission of the Academy of Management