Open innovation is no self-fulfilling prophecy

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Let me be clear. Open innovation can indeed bring significant value. I can highlight:

  • Extended reach and capacity for new ideas, technologies and different perspectives on challenges, broadening your view (where you look and your ability to see what’s there)
  • Ability to leverage initiatives on someone else’s budget
  • Opportunity to refocus your internal resources on screening and managing implementation
  • Ability to conduct strategic experiments at lower levels of risk and resources, with the opportunity to extend your core business and create new sources of growth
  • Incorporation of customers early in the development process: you can call on your customers to determine the challenges to address, or, if the concepts have been approved for analysis or implementation, your customers can participate in their evaluation and development
  • Potential for viral marketing: if the angle you set is pertinent to the targeted audience, these types of initiatives are often spontaneously shared via online communication and social networks
  • Over time, opportunity to create a more innovative culture from ‘outside in’, through continued exposure to, and relationships with, external innovators

Still, you should lower your expectations. Depending on the challenges and engagement levels you get, you may be able to land some potentially interesting innovations. Yet, however positive and confident you and your company may be about developing your initiative, these benefits won’t just follow automatically.

A new approach
At Exago, we’ve looked for a more real-world definition of open innovation: the science of engaging your organisation’s ecosystem – both the internal and external stakeholder networks – to address business challenges and identify new growth opportunities.

If you’re developing an open innovation initiative, have its real meaning in mind. Also, don’t overlook the potential to establish new partnerships and identify more business opportunities. Remember to explore the latest technological trends as well.

To make your efforts worthwhile, you and your leadership have to define clear timelines and goals, both tangible (projects, ideas, etc.) and intangible (culture, positioning, collaboration behaviours, etc.). Establish a flexible workflow design to meet these goals. Focus on your organisation’s challenges and find relevance – both for your company and contributors.

When targeting participants, consider suppliers, customers and universities. But do not forget your most valuable asset. Your employees are themselves a community of stakeholders, often from different countries, cultures, backgrounds and businesses.

They are your most important open innovation source. True, your teams may have their own orthodoxies. Yet they understand, more than anyone else, what is relevant and what would and wouldn’t work in your company.

Pedro da Cunha, Exago’s CEO and co-founder

Internal crowds have their say

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