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Stretching the Concept of Open Innovation

by Stefan Lindegaard
November 6, 201211/6/12 4 Comments

Given the maturity of open innovation and crowdsourcing today, it has become fairly common to bring external resources into an innovation process. Just check this list of 40 examples.

However, too many people still believe that the concept behind open innovation, crowdsourcing and co-creation is all about new products or services. Well, I just spoke with an innovation leader in a very successful company who is taking a different approach.

This guy has the challenge of establishing an open innovation / crowdsourcing platform and structure within the company. Of course, he and his team needs to deliver short-term results, but he and his bosses also understand that it is even more important to build a framework and structure that will succeed in the long-term perspective.

Our guy picked the below projects to help develop the external element of their corporate innovation capabilities. They are not what you usually see at the early phases of building such programs.

Supply chain: What are some of the key challenges within our supply chain / manufacturing operation? Once this question was asked to the right people within the organization, it was easy to identify challenges that could be solved better if you merged internal and external resources.

Experiences: The company already runs crowdsourcing initiatives on their products and services. Of course, they need to continuously improve this, but our guy still took a different approach here. How can we improve the experiences that consumers have when they interact with our products and services – and how can we use external resources to do this?

Human Resources: A third project looks into hiring and retaining processes at the HR department. Can you really crowdsource challenges and ideas and co-create solutions on stuff like this? I am not sure, but it is definitely worth a try.

Our guy is trying to run all of these interesting, but quite different projects, on the same platform. If he succeeds, the company will have a very strong platform for innovating on their processes and not just on their products and services.

More importantly, this approach is very useful in changing the mindset within the company as it makes even more people believe they have a role in this new way of innovating as they begin to understand that it goes beyond products and services.

I believe that our guy, his team and his colleagues are on their way to help the company build such strong corporate innovation capabilities that they will have a good shot at being able to out-innovate their competitors.

Open innovation needs to be about mindset and organizational processes. This is a great case of this and I hope to be able to share more on this as the projects develop and lessons are learned.

Currently there are "4 comments" on this Article:

  1. Cordelia Krooß says:

    Thanks a lot for sharing this interesting case, Stefan. While you seem a bit sceptic on the HR project, I find it the most promising. Not for quick wins, but for long-term success.

    As you so correctly point out, open innovation needs to be about mindset and organizational processes. How much closer to this can you get than with innovating the way an organization attracts new talent and keeps employees engaged? Not because of the "new, open people" you will bring to the company, but because crowdsourcing and co-creation of these processes only make sense if the organization simultaneously re-thinks and re-develops its attitude towards employees and their creative potential.

    If this HR project turns out a successful pilot, it may become instrumental in the transformation of "corporate behavior" needed to really embrace open innovation.

    • Stefan Lindegaard says:

      Hi Cordelia, thanks for your great input! I am not a skeptic on this – curious would be a better word. I really like initiatives that can help identify and develop innovation talent and help shape a better corporate innovation culture and as you point out this has an interesting potential. I look forward to speak with the company guy about this in a year or so.

  2. Spader says:

    Curious is the right word!! How does it actually works? Who's involved in this crowdsourced efforts (employees, partners, customers)? It depends on the subject or no?

  3. Sandra Pickering says:

    Hi, Stefan, I've added this comment to your linkedin discussion too.

    Stimulating piece, Stefan, thank you.
    It made me think two things:
    1. that the best market researchers have effectively been crowdsourcing with consumers for almost a century.
    2. the big, traditional management consultancies have built on their ability to access industry intelligence( on all business functions) through their senior network relationships. Have they too been quietly crowdsourcing all these years?