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Social Contests

The recent buzz surrounding the launch of Google+ overshadowed the release of a new social contest website called Prizes.org. Google acquired Prizes parent company Slide last year to make inroads into the lucrative social gaming market. Prizes enables people to post a task or question (like how to plan a trip to Italy), offer cash prizes as incentives and crowdsource the best solutions. Users are able to vote for their favourite entry and the contest creator gets to pick the winner or else they are chosen by popular vote.

Offering cash prizes to solve simple problems can be a good strategy as I’ve blogged about earlier, but it’s important to match the right incentives to the specific task at hand. As Dan Pink’s work demonstrates, external incentives like cash prizes are good for encouraging simple tasks. But when it comes to creative problem-solving, external incentives like money have the opposite effect by diminishing creativity.

Setting the right incentives for complex problem-solving requires an alternative approach as illustrated by a very different type of ideas platform that’s focussed on social innovation. OpenIDEO.com is a platform that also crowdsources ideas, but unlike Prizes.org the tasks in question include how to solve education, healthcare and food production.

Rather than getting people to compete for the “winning idea”, OpenIDEO invites their community to collaboratively contribute to the development of a solution.  Once the strongest ideas are selected, all concepts generated for that challenge are shareable and remixable to ensure the knowledge and social goods generated can be used again by all contributors. People participate in OpenIDEO for the opportunity to collaborate with other global change agents to solve some of the world's biggest challenges.

Social contests can be a fun way to engage your community and surface great ideas for your business but remember the following:

  • Match the right incentives to the specific task at hand;
  • Offer cash prizes to encourage simple tasks;
  • Non-monetary rewards are better suited to creative problem-solving

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