Contest holders, stop staring yourself blind!

Submission behavior and its implications for success in unblind innovation contests

Today more than ever, innovation and a constant search for novel solutions with economic value, is vital to strengthen competitiveness of firms (Bockstedt, Druehl, & Mishra, 2015). In the recent years, there has been an emergence of cost-effective “innovation contests”. Innovation contests are a way to invite individuals to submit their ideas or solutions to a specified problem. These contests are used to leverage the creativity, skills and intelligence of thousands of individuals on the internet (Füller, Hutter, Hautz, & Matzler, 2014). Innovation contests can either be ‘blind’ or ‘unblind’. In blind contests, the visibility of the submission posted is limited only to the individual who submitted it and the contest holder (Wooten & Ulrich, 2015). Wooten and Ulrich (2015) define unblind contests as contests where others’ submissions are fully visible to participants while the contest is still live. Seeing others’ submissions including the feedback from the contest holder, could have an influence on the submission behavior of a participant. Figure 1 shows the difference between blind and unblind contests on, a popular innovation contest website which matches graphic designers with organizations in need of a new logo. As unblind contests are quite new and not that well-explored in the literature, Bockstedt, Druehl and Mishra (2016) analyze the effect of unblind contests by examining the implications of participants’ submission behavior for contest outcomes.

Figure 1a. Unblind contest on

Figure 1b. Adapted version of blind contest on

Theoretical background is a consumer co-production network (Dellaert, 2018) in which the consumer co-production is high and the unit of co-production is the network, as the contest holders have the main benefit of this platform (Dellaert, 2018). In that way, value creation takes place in the interaction between customers and the platform (Gronroos & Voima, 2013). A logo is a useful product to crowdsource as it contains a clear question, is easy to implement, there are no obvious skills needed to create a logo and there is no established best-practice (Tsekouras, 2019). creates benefits on social needs of the contestants, as their ideas are seen, they can be part of a community. Through receiving positive feedback, or even winning a contest, their social needs are met, leading to higher self-esteem. Moreover, contestants can have a monetary motivation and it is also fun and instructive to create logos. The four main reasons for organizations to use crowdsourcing are to solve problems, generate ideas, outsource tasks or pooling information (Tsekouras, 2019). especially focuses on idea generation and outsourcing the task of designing a logo. In this way, the contest holders gain benefits by lowering branding-costs (Tsekouras, 2019), gathering insights in the product perception of the consumer and having the choice in picking from a broad range of possible logos / solutions.

Methodology & Findings

In order to take a closer look at how contestants solve problems in unblind innovation contests, a case study was conducted. By using a HTML scraping tool, researchers collected data from 1024 logo-design contests hosted on In addition to contest data, profile information and historical performance of contestants was gathered. As contestants were not aware of this data collection, their submission behavior was not biased.  Results of this study show how submission behaviour could impact contestant’s success in unblind innovation contests. First of all, a lower position of first submission is associated with a greater likelihood of success due to greater potential for obtaining intermediate evaluations from contest holders, shaping the contest holder’s taste and participating actively in the contest.

Secondly, the number of submissions have a positive impact on the likelihood of success up to a certain point. Beyond this point, marginal knowledge gained about the problem specification and the contest holder’s taste diminishes as more submissions are handed in (Figure 2). Therefore, contestants should focus their efforts on high quality submissions as a quantity-quality trade-off was indicated.

Figure 2. Graph on the likelihood of success x number of submissions

Furthermore, contestants who participated in a contest for a longer period were more likely to succeed as it allows them, via emerging information structure, to observe and assess their submissions with respect to the competition and update their understanding of contest holder’s requirements (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Submission participation time frame


A main strength of this study is that it examines unblind submissions in an innovation contest, whereas previous studies mainly focused on examining blind contests (Bockstedt et al., 2016). As unblind contests are on the rise due to their feedback and co-learning system, knowledge about their way of working is invaluable for academic literature. Besides filling a gap in academic literature, outcomes may provide substantial benefits for the contest holders in obtaining the design results they seek. Another strength is the methodological approach. Namely, the contestants subjected to the study are unaware of their participation and therefore participant bias will decrease and internal validation will increase (Smith & Noble, 2014). Lastly, handles a “winner takes it all” policy in which they define first place as ‘success’. The study however, deploys a top-3 listing based on the judging process as a definer of success, which accounts for a broader scope of definition.

Managerial implications

By optimizing the value system design, the joint payoff of the partners involved will be maximized (Carson et al., 1999). Therefore, should invest in motivating contestants on different levels. First of all,, and other platforms alike, should motivate contestants to submit their creations early. This could be achieved by installing a rewarding incentive for early submission and by dividing the contest in separate phases. There will be both social (e.g. social capital or self image) and monetary rewards after each phase, until the final product is build. Secondly, they should promote participation for a longer period of time, by keeping contestants up to date about the contest. By doing so, contestants will likely feel more motivated to participate, possibly resulting in more submissions per contest. Lastly, should motivate contestants to only submit after receiving additional valuable knowledge about the contest and previous designs, by setting a boundary amount of submissions of one per two days. This will improve quality of the designs, which in turn is favourable for the contest holder and co-contestants who can learn from the quality designs and implement it into their own designs.


Bockstedt, J., Druehl, C., & Mishra, A. (2015). Problem-solving effort and success in innovation contests: The role of national wealth and national culture. Journal of Operations Management, 36, 187-200.

Bockstedt, J., Druehl, C., & Mishra, A. (2016). Heterogeneous Submission Behavior and its Implications for Success in Innovation Contests with Public Submissions. Production and Operations Management, 25(7), 1157-1176.

Carson, S., Devinney, T., Dowling, G., & John, G. (1999). Understanding Institutional

Designs within Marketing Value Systems. Journal Of Marketing, 63, 115. doi: 10.2307/1252106

Dellaert, B.G.C. 2018. The consumer production journey: marketing to consumers as co-producers  in the sharing economy. Journal  of the Academy  of Marketing Science, forthcoming, 1-17.

Füller, J., Hutter, K., Hautz, J., & Matzler, K. (2014). User Roles and Contributions in Innovation-Contest Communities. Journal of Management Information Systems, 31(1), 272-307.

Gronroos, Chr. & Voima, P. (2013), Critical service logic: making sense of value creation and co-creation. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 41 (2), 133-150.

Smith, J., & Noble, H. (2014). Bias in research. Evidence Based Nursing, 17(4), 100-101. doi: 10.1136/eb-2014-101946

Tsekouras, D. (2019) Customer Centric Digital Commerce Lecture 1 & Lecture 3 [Lecture 1 &3]

Wooten, J. O., & Ulrich, K. T. (2015). The Impact of Visibility in Innovation Tournaments: Evidence From Field Experiments. Wharton Faculty Research, 1-36.

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