A few months ago, this article created quite a stir in the innovation community: Running an Open Innovation Contest? Think Again.
The author, Randall S. Wright of MIT’s Office of Corporate Relations, discusses open innovation contests and warns companies and others that such contests (and perhaps open innovation in general) are not a sure path to success.
He is definitely right that a contest by itself is not a holy grail. Open innovation in the broader sense has much more potential and the verdict is still out, but Wright really misses this key point in his article:
Open innovation can’t stand by itself and this has never been the idea.
The thing is that most companies rightfully so credit a huge part of their current innovation success to their internal resources, but a growing number of companies are becoming even more successful by merging their internal resources with external resources.
This merger of internal and external resources is a movement that is starting to take hold and there is no turning back now. If your company is not yet already onboard with this movement, it will fall behind in the coming years. The future of innovation is open.
I think Wright know this, but he is perhaps a bit blindsided while making the point that innovation is most often successfully driven by a small group of people with a vision. There is lots of truth in this, but Wright also needs to wake up and acknowledge the changes that are happening right now.
The inventors – perhaps they were not even innovators as we know them today – mentioned in his decade or even century old cases did things by themselves because they did not have a choice. They simply did not have the infrastructure in place to do what is so important for today’s small groups of visionaries, which is to tap into the crowd or external resources to test their ideas, get feedback, explore new approaches and opportunities and thus further accelerate their work.
A true visionary not only knows what is important within his or hers chosen field; they also know how to embrace new ways of working in order to bring their innovation or inventions to market. This is where open innovation fits right in.