While open innovation and crowdsourced solutions are concepts that have become more prevalent over the past two decades, crowdsourcing has a rich history that dates all the way as far back as the early 18th Century. The history of crowdsourcing is filled with success, but modern innovators have only begun to embrace it in the more recent years. To show how long crowdsourced solutions have been delivering success in the innovation industry, we are outlining some of the key moments from the last 300 years.

Back in Time to the First Event

While it’s possible crowdsourcing originated as far back as thousands of years ago, the first documented case, and the earliest we know of it occurring, dates back to 1714. The location was Great Britain, and the very first client was the British Government. The project was known as the Longitude rewards, and the goal was finding a simple and practical method for the precise determination of a ship’s longitude at sea. The rewards were between £10,000 and £20,000, depending on the solution given. The contest was won by John Harrison, who created the H4 sea watch.

While this was the first time a documented reward was given for a crowdsourced solution, this wasn’t the first time a prize was offered up to anyone who could provide a solution to this issue. This challenge was also offered by Philip II of Spain in 1567 and Philip III in 1598, but no one submitted a solution that was worthy of winning the reward.

Other Notable Crowdsourced Solutions Throughout History

Moving forward in time, there are several other notable instances of crowdsourcing throughout the 19th and 20th centuries:

  • When compiling their initial version of the revolutionary publication, The Oxford Dictionary put out a call to readers to submit ordinary words and words that were rare, obsolete, old-fashioned, new, peculiar or used in a peculiar way.
  • In 1916, Planters Peanuts crowdsourced the design of the logo for Mr. Peanut, the mascot of their company.
  • In 1936, Toyota reached out to the crowd to redesign its logo. They received about 27,000 entries before selecting a winner.
  • In 1955, The Sydney Opera House leveraged the crowd through a contest to design their new building, which was set to be placed in Sydney Harbor. Over 200 entries were submitted from architects in over 30 countries. The winning entry was built and is now one of the most recognizable buildings in the world.

Crowdsourcing In Modern Times

Flash forward to the 2000s, crowdsourcing is changing nearly every facet of our society. From reality TV to social media to innovation and the gig economy, crowdsourcing is positioning itself in all forms of business, entertainment, etc. It has become the defining feature of innovation, and there seems to be no telling how it will affect the future of many industries on a global scale in the coming years.