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For 'creativity,' Just Add 'crowd'


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crowdsourcing

Photo courtesy of CHI 2011

Stevens Institute of Technology researcher Jeffery Nickerson is studying how to use crowdsourcing to produce creative ideas.

New online tools make assembling large crowds relatively easy, but collaboration is more difficult, Nickerson says. He developed a system that enables people to "speak through the things they produce" by using a crowdsourcing marketplace, a drawing platform, and an organizational approach that mimics natural evolution.

Nickerson tested the system by recruiting an initial crowd to design a chair for children. The first sketches were combined and built upon to create a second generation of chairs. Nickerson continued the experiment for three generations, resulting in 200 chair sketches. The last generation of chairs was rated as more creative, practical, and superior to the first.

"Innovation comes from taking one idea from one place, another idea from another place, and combining features of both to come up with something new," Nickerson says. He says the system divides the innovation process between computers and humans, with computers managing the workflow and humans combining the ideas.

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