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“Does God Play Dice?” – Randomness vs. Deterministic Explanations of Crowdsourcing Success

2014

Christopher Lettl Nikolaus Franke Franke Susanne Roiser Tuertscher Philipp

Which factors are responsible for the success of crowdsourcing tournaments? Current theorizing on crowdsourcing appears to assume that there is a deterministic relationship between factors such as the organization of the tournament, characteristics of the participants attracted, and specific situational factors on the one hand and the quality of their contributions gained on the other. Based on theory that views creativity as a process of blind variation and retention, we introduce the alternative idea that in fact the quality of any participants’ idea is largely random and thus the success of the tournament rests primarily on the number of participants attracted. In order to compare the explanatory power of randomness and 22 deterministic factors derived from literature we conducted a huge experiment in which 1,089 participants developed ideas for smartphone apps. Our finding is unambiguous: the single factor of randomness outperforms all deterministic explanations collectively by far. It appears that at least in crowdsourcing, God indeed plays dice.

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