A Crowdsource activity enables Leaders to generate, organize, clarify, and reduce a list of ideas. Designed to promote ideation and organization of Thinkers’ contributions, the Custom Crowdsource allows Leaders to build unique, specific activities to suit their Session goals.

The following activities are categorized as Crowdsource activities in the Designer tab:

  • Custom Crowdsource*
  • ThinkTag*
  • Agenda, Minutes, and Notes
  • Brainstorm, Categorize, and Comment
  • Breakout Groups
  • Free Brainstorm (Breadth)
  • Category Brainstorm (Depth)

Note: Activities denoted with an asterisk (*) are multi-step activities. For more information, see Steps.


  • Activity Toolbar at the upper right displays the available functionality specific to the Crowdsource activity.
  • Categories Column is the highest level in the organizational hierarchy of a Crowdsource activity. The default name of this column is Categories, but Leaders can modify the name as necessary.
  • Ideas Column is the primary workspace of the Crowdsource activity. The default name of this column is Ideas, but Leaders can modify the name as necessary.
  • Comments Column displays all comments displays all comments associated with the idea that is the active item in the Ideas column.
  • Instructions tab contains Leader- and Thinker-specific instructions for the activity or step.
  • Documents tab enables Leaders and Thinkers to share and track supporting documents that supplement the Session.
  • Crowdsource Activity Settings are opened by double-clicking the gear icon at the bottom of the activity tile. Leaders can change the display, permissions, and limits for the activity.

In a Crowdsource activity, the active item is outlined in blue with a notched arrow pointing right. In addition, its item number is highlighted with a blue circle to make it more visible. To select an active item, click on it, and the associated ideas or comments appear in the corresponding columns.

In the image shown below, the "How could Six Sigma impact customer satisfaction" category is the active item in the first column. All of the ideas in this example, that belong to "How could Six Sigma impact customer satisfaction", are displayed in the middle column. In the middle column, Idea 1 is the active item; all of the comments that belong to Idea 1 are displayed in the right column.

Selected items differ from active items in that they can be affected by the text editing functions in the Activity toolbar (Indent, Outdent, Delete, Cut, Copy, Paste, Paste Special). Multiple selected items can exist in a column and are highlighted in solid blue.

In the image shown below, Idea 1 and Idea 3 in the middle column are the selected items. Any editing function that you select, such as the Indent operation, will affect both of these ideas. The comments for Idea 1 are still shown in the right column because Idea 1 is still the active item.

Any number of items can be selected in a column at the same time, but items in different columns cannot be selected at the same time.

  • To select an individual item, click on it.
  • To select multiple items in different positions in a list:
    1. Click on the first item.
    2. When it is selected, hold down the control/Ctrl or Command key and click on additional items (one by one) to include in the selection.
  • To select a range of items in a list:

Click on the top or bottom item in the range, and hold down the Shift key while clicking on the bottom or top item in the range; all items in between the two will also be selected.

All columns have entry boxes at the bottom. To add a contribution to a column, type it into the entry box and press enter/return; it appears on the list in that column. If there is a selected item in a column, all new entries appear underneath that item, regardless of its position on the list.

Note: When you add contributions to any column they appear at the bottom of the list, unless a specific category/idea/comment is selected.

Inserting Line Breaks

If you need to insert line breaks in specific places in your contribution, enter the text in an external text editor first (or copy/paste your original entry from the text entry box into a text editor, such as Notepad), and then manually insert line breaks where appropriate. When ready, copy/paste the text from the text editor into the entry box at the base of the column, and press Enter/Return.

In a Crowdsource activity, all text including pre-existing (column names) and contribution (categories/ideas/comments), is editable by Leaders and Thinkers (if permissions allow).

To edit any text:

  1. Double-click on the text.
  2. When it is active, type in the new text, and click Enter/Return.

Note: It is considered Best Practice to rename columns by entering prompts that reflect the questions/tasks that the activity seeks to address.

Two common text editing features in the Crowdsource activity are Indent  and Outdent , located in the Activity toolbar.

You can use these tools to organize items within columns on the basis of association or similarity. Main items with sub-items can be collapsed and expanded by clicking on the +/- button to the immediate left of the item.

Note: At the top left of all column titles is the “global” +/- button for that column, which expands and collapses all items with sub-items in the column.

The Green Dot is an important control for Leaders using a Crowdsource activity. Green Dots are used throughout ThinkTank to indicate when a Leader can activate or deactivate a component of the Session or activity. Green Dots are most useful in a Crowdsource activity for controlling what Thinkers see, and where and when they are able to enter contributions into the activity.

Hide Columns and Text Entry Boxes from Thinkers

Click on the Green Dot at the top right corner of a column or text entry box to hide the item from Thinkers. The dot becomes gray to indicate the column or text entry box is not visible to Thinkers. To reactivate the column once again, click on the gray dot so it returns to green. Leaders can activate a column but deactivate the text entry box at the base of that column so that no further contributions can be made by Thinkers.

Best Practice

It is considered best practice to only allow Thinkers to see what they need to see. For example, if the initial goal is to generate a list of ideas, deactivate the “Categories” and “Comments” columns so that Thinkers only see the “Ideas” column. This minimizes distraction, and provides focus on the task at hand.

The image shown below displays an example of the Leader view in a Crowdsource activity, with the Categories and Comments columns disabled for Thinkers:

Crowdsource Leader View

The image shown below displays how Thinkers view the same activity:

Crowdsource Thinker View

Note: Thinkers only see the Instructions tab when Leaders have added instructions to it. In the example above, the Leader has kept the Instructions tab visible in the Leader view (green dot is visible), but has not yet added Thinker instructions to it.

  • Design the screen. The Green Dots are your friends. Thinkers only see those components that you have made visible. Think about what you want Thinkers to see and do. Deactivate those columns you don’t need or want to hide from Thinkers. Deactivate the entry boxes on the columns in which you do not want Thinkers to add new entries. Use the Green Dots frequently in real-time by simply activating columns or entry boxes as required; this keeps Thinkers focused.
  • Rename the columns. Like most text in ThinkTank, you can rename the default column headers (Categories, Ideas, Comments) by double-clicking on the text. It is best to rename them something that helps focus Thinkers on the task or topic.
  • Set the permissions. Each activity has its own settings, accessible via the Navigation tab, where more granular permissions can be set. For example, you can control whether Thinkers can edit, move, or organize items, and even set permissions so that they only see their own entries (TIP: This can be helpful to turn on for a few minutes as it reduces the “Watcher” effect, where people get so mesmerized by all the ideas flowing past that they forget to participate).
  • Add your custom content. One common technique is to create a set of questions in the “Categories” column, and then deactivate the column so users can’t see it. As the Leader you still can see the column, and you can navigate Thinkers through your questions by clicking the question and hitting the Magnet to pull all Thinkers to you. The question appears as the sub-title of the “Ideas” column.
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