Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Live from Front End of Innovation 2012: Colin Nelson on Optimizing the Creation of Breakthrough Innovation

"There is no innovation without execution."


Open Innovation (OI) helps harness the collective expertise of diverse employees, customer, and supplier groups, and then manages the insights, ideas, concepts and projects to deliver business value.

The guidelines of OI can help solve the common innovation problems that we hear about on a daily basis:
  • We need to look in new places
  • We need more diversity, and to include non-experts (and this makes some people nervous)
Information can come from anywhere, so we need to go beyond the team, beyond the department, and even beyond the enterprise.  But, extending this far means less control, less security, and more worries about protecting intellectual property.  Also, those beyond the enterprise are less well-understood and are harder to engage.

There is currently no systematic way to support ideas coming into the organization, especially because different people in the organization talk to different third parties all the time.  How can the firm bring these third-party ideas to bear?  One way to do this is to follow the lead of Nokia Siemens and to put the innovation team front and center.  They can react to the needs of the business and pull in outside expertise as necessary.  (Orin's aside: Along those lines, consider setting up the innovation team as a repository for third-party ideas to which various members/teams are exposed.  Make sure that those who bring in ideas are also part of the team that gets to test and executes them.  Take a cue from Google or Valve.)

For that matter, how do we ascertain which third parties deserve the company's time for collaborating on innovation?  There are four key questions we can ask:

  • Do they have a vested interest in the company and its innovation?
  • How is the quality of the relationship with these people?
  • Can we access the people we need?
  • Can we still protect our IP?  Do we have the requisite legal protections to work with these people?

Moreover, when engaging in Open Innovation processes, there are seven factors that need to be considered:

  • Purpose (e.g., co-creation, feedback)
  • Addressee (e.g., supplier)
  • Driver (e.g., business development)
  • Transaction (e.g., insights, solutions)
  • Motivation of invitees (e.g., enthusiasm, brand loyalty)
  • Engagement model (e.g., joint engagement)
  • Legal framework (e.g., NDA, disclaimer)

Building a Roadmap to Open Innovation
  • Objective setting -- be clear about what you're looking for
  • Internal campaigns -- test your approach with a safe audience and fine-tune the question
  • Target identification -- focus on the third parties best suited to helping you
  • Online collaboration -- use your own employees to drive discussion
  • Action on outcomes and communications -- act on good content and provide feedback

For a great example of competitors using Open Innovation while working together for a common benefit, take a look at the Englight Project.



Orin C. Davis is the first person to earn a doctorate in positive psychology. His research focuses on flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring, and it spans both the workplace and daily life. He is the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory and a freelance consultant who helps companies maximize their human capital and become better places to work.

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