Case 5: Crowdsourcing - Chicago History Bowl

Involving consumers in product development yields better engagement at product launch


Selecting a new exhibit for a museum involves major financial risk for any museum.  Exhibits are expensive to build.  And if you choose the wrong exhibit and there is no supportive audience, a museum can take a big financial hit.  The Chicago History Museum is not immune to these financial dynamics.


At the Chicago History Museum, we launched a unique effort that I organized to reduce the financial risk of selecting a new museum exhibit.   We reached out to the general public to ask them what kind of exhibit they would like to see as out next exhibit at the museum.  And we promised our audiences that we would develop an exhibit based upon the most popular idea suggested from a crowd-sourced process.  Our process was simple and comparable to the well-known March Madness style competitive brackets.  We first asked the public for their ideas which yielded over 500 separate ideas.  And we took the most repeated 64 ideas to form the basis of the brackets.  Then we asked the public to vote on those 64 ideas and repeated this voting with rounds of 32, 16, 8, 4 and lastly to a finalist.  We dubbed this whole event as the Chicago History Bowl.


The result of this Chicago History Bowl was that we had hundreds of ideas suggested and we had various groups and individuals advocating for their idea to be the top exhibit.   There was genuine fervor and anticipation on how the City of Chicago would vote.  We had massive press coverage of this story as press saw this as a way to connect with their city.   In the end, the most popular idea was “Chicago Authors”, and we made good on our promise and opened an exhibit titled, “Chicago Authored”.   This was an exhibit about all of the well-known authors who had their start in Chicago.   And this was the first exhibit we ever did where the public already knew what we were creating, which meant we could lower our advertising spend.  And our audiences were living in anticipation of the grand opening.