If two heads are better than one, are 45,000 heads spectacular? That's the promise of crowdsourcing. Companies can find new ideas faster and sometimes at a lower cost than internal innovation.

[Related: Crowdsourcing Offers a Tightly Focused Alternative to Outsourcing]

But putting business problems out for public brainwork could expose sensitive information and strategic plans. And contest-winning ideas, developed in isolated laboratory conditions with squeaky-clean data, can't always be translated to the unpredictable real world, says Anand Rao, a principal at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

To continue reading, register here to become an Insider . You'll get free access to premium content from CIO, Computerworld, CSO, InfoWorld, and Network World. See more Insider content or sign in.