The Role of Professionalism in Innovation Contest Communities
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In innovation contests, companies post innovation-related problems to a large crowd and award the best submitted idea. It has been shown that the size and heterogeneity of the crowd are central to the success. One facet of heterogeneity of communities is professionalism; i.e., the degrees to which participants use general principles and standardized knowledge to solve problems. We argue that varying degrees of professionalism play an important role and explore how participants' professionalism influences the quality of contributions, the complexity of chosen tasks and their position and prestige within the social network. Our analysis of a jewelry design contest community shows that professionalism has a positive effect on the average quality of submitted designs. Findings further show a negative impact of professionalism on the variance in quality; i.e., the likelihood of submitting designs of extremely high quality. Professionalism also influences participants' engagement in preferred innovation tasks. Professionals tend to engage in more complex designs tasks. Our results further show that participants' prestige within the contest community depends on the quality, quantity and elaboration of the contributions. Our study contributes to innovation contest community research showing that not only do sheer number and diversity of contributors to innovation contest communities matter, but also their level of professionalism.