An from real-world cases, a qualitative research design

An explorative multi-case study has been chosen as
research design to answer the research question how the
companies can use internal and external crowds to source
ideas. Yin (1994) states that “In general, case studies are the
preferred strategy when ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions are being
posed”. This research is of an explorative nature, since no
previous investigation of comparing internal and external
crowds for innovation exists. Aiming to enrich existing
theory and to identify current internal and external
crowdsourcing approaches with new and deeper insights from
real-world cases, a qualitative research design seems
purposeful to study the phenomenon in detail and
consequently explain the different approach companies have
to choose regarding their innovation crowdsourcing projects
18. Multiple case studies can prove valuable in order to
illuminate contrasts and similarities between cases 37. A
comparative case study design in particular is used to identify
common patterns and differences across cases, whereby two
cases from a German specialty chemicals company
concerning internal and external crowdsourcing are analyzed
in detail.
The specialty chemicals industry is particularly suitable
for case studies as it is complex and interlinked. In contrast to
commodity chemicals that are sold based on their chemical
composition, the products of specialty chemicals companies
are sold because of their performance or function. While
commodity chemicals are single-chemical entities that are
generally readily interchangeable from any supplier, specialty
chemicals can be single-chemical entities or formulations
(combinations of several chemicals). The composition of the
formulations significantly influences the performance and
processing of their customer’s product 49, 70. Therefore,
developing new products and services in the specialty
chemicals industry requires intensive knowledge and ongoing
innovation 30.
The overall profitability and growth of the specialty
chemicals industry has been decreasing during the last ten
years. The main reason is the increasing competitiveness of
the business environment. To improve its margins, the
specialty chemicals industry increases prices to compensate
high R, energy, and raw material costs. In addition,
specialty chemical companies are reducing costs and
developing new products in faster-growing markets to reach
their financial targets 44. Due to the increasing competition
from Asia and the Middle East, and the change of matured
products into commodities, innovation seems to be one of the
few opportunities for the Western specialty chemicals
companies to gain competitive advantage 67. Thus,
innovation is the key to success and a success key factor of an
entire industry. Especially the German chemical industry is
investing increasing amounts in R of innovations 67.
Nevertheless, for some years the innovation portion of the
total turnover in this industry has decreased 68. Therefore,
companies are increasingly seeking to promote innovation
and are looking for alternative forms to generate innovations
Crowdsourcing process
Deliberation phase Preparation
• Define expected
• Define kind of
online platform it
is using
• Define the task
• Define the crowd
• Define the
• Define the
• Mobilize and
activate the
• Keep up the
activity level
• Evaluation
• Evaluation
mode (expert
• IP regulation
• Rewarding ceremony
• Prove feasibility of the
• Feedback about next
2016 Proceedings of PICMET ’16: Technology Management for Social Innovation
and their successful performance. New forms such as
crowdsourcing or open innovation communities are
interesting topics for generating ideas 19. A majority of
companies in the chemical industry considers decentralized
and highly creative brainstorming important. It is agreed that
creative and systematic idea seeking activities must be
coordinated within and between business areas 71. Known
are internal and external crowdsourcing contests from the
largest chemical companies in Germany such as BASF,
Evonik, or Bayer, which are