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Managing Innovation in a Crowd

  • Daron Acemoglu
  • Mohamed Mostagir
  • Asuman Ozdaglar

Crowdsourcing is an emerging technology where innovation and production are sourced out to the public through an open call. At the center of crowdsourcing is a resource allocation problem: there is an abundance of workers but a scarcity of high skills, and an easy task assigned to a high-skill worker is a waste of resources. This problem is complicated by the fact that the exact difficulties of innovation tasks may not be known in advance, so tasks that require high-skill labor cannot be identified and allocated ahead of time. We show that the solution to this problem takes the form of a skill hierarchy, where tasks are first attempted by low-skill labor, and high-skill workers only engage with a task if less skilled workers are unable to finish it. This hierarchy can be constructed and implemented in a decentralized manner even though neither the difficulties of the tasks nor the skills of the candidate workers are known. We provide a dynamic pricing mechanism that achieves this implementation by inducing workers to self select into different layers. The mechanism is simple: each time a task is attempted and not finished, its price (reward upon completion) goes up.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19852.

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Date of creation: Jan 2014
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19852
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  1. William Fuchs & Luis Garicano & Luis Rayo, 2015. "Optimal Contracting and the Organization of Knowledge," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(2), pages 632-658.
  2. Beggs, A W, 2001. "Queues and Hierarchies," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 68(2), pages 297-322, April.
  3. Pol Antràs & Luis Garicano & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2005. "Offshoring in a Knowledge Economy," Discussion Papers 04-020, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  4. Amanda Pallais, 2013. "Inefficient Hiring in Entry-Level Labor Markets," NBER Working Papers 18917, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Luis Garicano & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2006. "The Knowledge Economy at the Turn of the Twentieth Century: The Emergence of Hierarchies," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 4(2-3), pages 396-403, 04-05.
  6. repec:hrv:faseco:4784031 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. Teulings, Coen N, 1995. "The Wage Distribution in a Model of the Assignment of Skills to Jobs," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(2), pages 280-315, April.
  8. von Hippel, Eric, 1976. "The dominant role of users in the scientific instrument innovation process," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 5(3), pages 212-239, July.
  9. Luis Garicano, 2000. "Hierarchies and the Organization of Knowledge in Production," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(5), pages 874-904, October.
  10. Tinbergen, Jan, 1974. "Substitution of Graduate by Other Labour," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(2), pages 217-26.
  11. Kevin J. Boudreau & Nicola Lacetera & Karim R. Lakhani, 2011. "Incentives and Problem Uncertainty in Innovation Contests: An Empirical Analysis," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 57(5), pages 843-863, May.
  12. Uwe Dulleck & Rudolf Kerschbamer & Matthias Sutter, 2011. "The Economics of Credence Goods: An Experiment on the Role of Liability, Verifiability, Reputation, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(2), pages 526-55, April.
  13. Sattinger, Michael, 1975. "Comparative Advantage and the Distributions of Earnings and Abilities," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 43(3), pages 455-68, May.
  14. Luis Garicano & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2004. "Inequality and the Organization of Knowledge," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 197-202, May.
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