This paper analyzes attempts to build user ideation communities aimed at inviting users to submit ideas and suggestions for future organizational actions. While earlier work has elaborated on the advantages of communities once they are created, our findings show that the ‘average’ organization struggles to build a vibrant community: most simply wither or die. We develop an argument about the importance of committing resources in the forms of (1) employees who submit suggestions to the community and (2) accepting suggestions from people in the community, and particularly suggestions from newcomers. Our findings suggest that creating communities often requires significant attention from the organizations seeking to develop them. However, our results are contingent upon the stage of the community, where we see different effects depending on whether the community has a history of accumulating suggestions or not. Our work has implications for scholars of open innovation by highlighting the importance of considering the innumerable failures, showing how focusing on communities that have reached a certain size can lead to misleading conclusions and specifying some conditions that explain why some are more successful than others.
With permission of the Academy of Management