Open innovation is not about shouting a random question and expecting thousands to automatically give you the perfect answer, with all you would have to do then is count your profit and celebrate.
Rather, open innovation is about springing up collaborations through promoting your challenges.
A good example of this is the Toshiba Group, which does open innovation instead of developing its products in-house.
Years ago, they announced their open innovation strategy in a whole range of fields of innovation, ranging from energy efficiency, street lighting, and document management, to home care for the elderly.
According to Philippe Delahaye, President of Toshiba Systèmes France and Toshiba TEC France Imaging Systems:
“Progress belongs to everybody – and so should the innovation that drives it. Bringing together all the players in innovation of this kind calls for a global firm with tried and tested experience in major projects for cities, homes, and offices. Toshiba is proud to be playing such a role.”
The message in this is that there are rather parties that already invented what your organization needs, so why reinvent the wheel?
What does open innovation mean?
The words “open innovation” first came around when Henry Chesbrough, an American organizational theorist, wrote a book about it titled “Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology”.
Henry explained open innovation as:
“The use of purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation, and expand the markets for external use of innovation, respectively.”
Open innovation hinges strongly on the belief that there are others out there, outside of the innovation team, who can contribute ideas, solutions, and information, that will help your organization achieve your innovation and business goals.
There are two types of open innovation:
- Internal open innovation
- External open innovation
Internal open innovation is where you involve all your employees throughout the organization, across different countries where you have offices.
Doing so will help enable you to create communities and an innovation culture for your firm and get expert insights from the people who interact with your products and services on a daily basis.
External open innovation is when you pose a challenge to the outside world, which clearly contains more brainpower than your collective firm. Though this source is specialized, it is not aimed at your firm specifically (yet).
The magic here is that other sectors will look at the question from a different point of view than what you have.
For instance, maybe you do not need to compose a new algorithm and all you need is to actually reconfigure an existing one. So instead of going out to find solutions, you post the challenge and see what comes up.
Whether it is internal or external open innovation, there are aspects you need to consider for open innovation to become successful. One of them is by using a good open innovation platform.
The benefits of open innovation
Companies can use open innovation to gain access to the different insights, information, and expertise of any relevant internal or external sources. Hence, implementing this process can lead to a slew of benefits, including:
Acquiring an increased number of ideas
Open innovation allows businesses to discuss different topics, issues, and concepts with groups having diverse experiences. These conversations lead organizations to find and discover solutions they never would’ve considered otherwise.
These ideas may also be novel, unique, and occasionally out-of-the-box, so companies may generate products and services out of them. The thing about open innovation is that it gathers useful knowledge instead of dispersing it.
It unites different minds together, resulting in breakthrough ideas and processes that may cause significant changes to the way businesses do things.
Case in point, Facebook. As a leading social media platform, Facebook always wants to make a difference in the lives of its users.
This objective is what pushed them to create hackathons within the company, a form of internal open innovation wherein anyone within the organization can pitch their ideas and contribute something new to the company.
These hackathons led Facebook to create features that its users truly loved. These functionalities, such as the live chat, react buttons, and even the pride flag feature, allowed people on Facebook to express their comments, opinions, and even their love and support for the LGBTQ community.
Lowering innovation costs
Sometimes, when innovation isn’t a trait embedded in the culture of the company, the process becomes expensive. Creative people are not only hired to generate unique concepts that would put the organization a few steps ahead of its competitors.
An entire group of developers and engineers are recruited to join the brainstorming process. Open innovation lowers these expenses.
Even when companies go out of their way to reward and recognize excellent recommendations, open innovation allows you to maximize your own resources first, i.e., the minds of your employees.
Once you add their diverse points of view into the equation, you might be surprised to find a gold mine of innovative concepts you never knew you had.
That is the best part: these sources of suggestions and strategies are always within reach. However, don’t forget to provide and establish the appropriate incentives for individuals whose ideas make the cut.
You can give them a percentage of the sales, professional recognition, or even cash incentives. Sometimes, when innovation isn’t a trait embedded in the culture of the company, the process becomes expensive.
Quicker market entry
Open innovation accelerates product development. When a company is able to generate, collect, and utilize ideas faster than usual, it can move on to the next few steps of the product development process with speed and ease.
They can move forward by discussing the idea further, detecting potential issues with the product, and injecting necessary improvements to make a viable proof of concept and prototype.
This way, they can find solutions faster and improve right away when needed by soliciting input from a large number of individuals.
This hastened process is especially useful in fields where companies use iterative testing to create final products, like app and software development.
Increasing product awareness
Open innovation, when done correctly, may result in a significant amount of additional interest in a product or service, or business.
For instance, Apple Pay, the collaboration between Mastercard and the giant tech company, Apple, creates practical value for clients who are using both brands.
With the introduction of the Apple Pay app, the company significantly altered consumer behavior. Now, people can simply shop or pay for anything through their phones without having to carry their credit or debit cards physically.
In this partnership, MasterCard not only supported a significant consumer technology developer—it had grown along with its clients.
While Apple had strategically offered another significant service other than the one they’re currently in, which increased brand awareness even more.
Luring prospective investors
A developing business may gain a lot of credibility by taking part in open innovation, and it can also be a wonderful way to pique the curiosity of potential investors like venture capital organizations.
By sharing knowledge and expertise with people outside of the organization, you can do a lot to raise the profile of your firm, provided you don’t reveal so much that it compromises your competitive advantage.
When combined, these elements can give firms a significant edge.
What is an open innovation platform?
An open innovation platform is a tool that will support your open innovation process. Since many innovation activities take place on these platforms, most of these platforms also work as idea management solutions and innovation software.
On the other hand, it is fair to say that open innovation platforms cover solutions that can help facilitate the innovation process. Some even function as tools that will enable you to find contributors, suppliers, and contractors.
But for this article, we will stick with open innovation platforms that can help with most activities related to innovation, like gathering and selecting ideas, managing projects and portfolios, and others.
How do these platforms help with innovation?
Setting up the challenge may be as simple as posting a question to a specific community or sending a message to a group of people. Either way, some open innovation platforms will be able to help you with this and establish a channel of communication with contributors.
Some organizations approach open innovation in a form of a challenge where people join together to solve a problem or pitch in ideas around a specific theme. Some may also go with the crowdsourcing route where incentivizing people is the norm to come up with solutions.
A good example of this is Accept Mission’s undercover mode feature where you can practically ask the crowd without limits and they can pitch in their ideas “undercover” without fearing the embarrassment of having their ideas ridiculed.
Although there are specialized platforms out there that will enable you to do specific tasks only, robust platforms, especially those that can be categorized as total innovation software, will help you manage innovative ideas and handle all innovation projects and portfolios.
But in summary, good open innovation platforms help with the following:
- Setting up the challenge
- Launching the innovation project
- Adding more innovative ideas
- Scoring and validating the ideas
- Communicating with contributors
When choosing the right open innovation platform for your organization, first consider all the tasks that you want to do in your open innovation process. Then, start looking for a platform that will help you do as many of those tasks as possible without having to jump to another tool.
Examples of Open Innovation Platforms
If you are in the market for an open innovation platform, here are a few examples that will help you get started:
1. Accept Mission
Accept Mission is one of the most complete innovation platforms out there. The name came from the popular “gamification” feature of the platform for generating new ideas. Innovation campaigns are called “missions”, hence the name.
As hinted earlier, Accept Mission has advanced gamification features useful for ideation, brainstorming, and open innovation. In a lot of ways, the platform makes the experience fun and engaging like a game.
Aside from enabling contributors to go undercover, the platform can also increase engagement and creativity levels as teams and contributors gain experiences, and receive awards, and other game-like elements.
Collecting ideas is also painless. With the inbox feature, you do not have to spend countless hours sorting out ideas submitted by contributors from different groups and sources since you can categorize the ideas with subjects.
When it comes to internal open innovation, Accept Mission is a good platform to use. You can invite agents, who belong to your organization, to an ideation campaign simply by a link, their names, or their email addresses.
If you want to know more about how the platform may be able to help you, check out the different use cases of Accept Mission.
Wazoku is a collaborative idea management software that helps organizations engage and collaborate with their own workforce and others in order to generate new ideas as part of their innovation strategy.
Open innovation is part of Wazoku’s products and services. In fact, you can use it to reach a global audience by starting a sponsor grand challenge, a type of activity that has no limits on participation, and tap into unique skill sets.
Anyone can join by simply using social logins with platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. This is definitely a low barrier to entry, which can definitely encourage participation from broad communities around the world.
You can also run competitions, whether internal or external, that will help drive engagement from networks. Or start a hackathon with a challenge to solve a particular problem. If you like, you can also run your own annual competition.
The good thing is that Wazoku has templates that will help you simplify the process of running competitions and challenges. That way, you can quickly launch your own competitions without placing a heavy burden on your own team.
Qmarkets is an idea management and innovation management software designed with enterprise-grade companies in mind. They help large organizations tackle a variety of strategic business challenges in different fields of innovation.
With their Q-open software, you can easily launch open innovation challenges and use the knowledge of external expert communities and professionals to help with your strategic challenges.
Like Wazoku, you can also use Q-open to invite external collaborators made up of specialists, entrepreneurs, and other professionals, to participate in a time-sensitive hackathon to help deliver quick solutions for specific problems.
With their software, you can immediately create an engaging open innovation portal that is available on any device. This can be integrated with different social media challenges that will help request ideas related to your business challenges.
When it comes to access and transparency, you can choose who can see the ideas submitted, whether that will be a collaborative open space where everyone can see others’ ideas or a closed challenge where external collaborators can only submit ideas.
Use an Open Innovation Platform
Open innovation is a great method that will enable you to put more mind into solving a particular problem or challenge. It helps you gain more information that can help you solve your business goals.
As for the benefits of open innovation, Henry Chesbrough wrote:
“For business, open innovation is a more profitable way to innovate, because it can reduce costs, accelerate time to market, increase differentiation in the market, and create new revenue streams for the company.”
Fortunately, there are open innovation platforms that help facilitate this process and make it easier for you to actually manage the operation. Imagine if you would run a challenge with thousands of participants without a platform to manage all of the submitted ideas.
If you want to get started, the three platforms mentioned earlier — Accept Mission, Wazoku, and Qmarkets — can definitely help. On the other hand, note that there are plenty more out there that you can try in case the features you need are not those mentioned here.
Next steps: Accept Mission is a good place to start, which is why it is on top of the list. If your objective is to start an internal open innovation with your whole organization, it definitely has the best features that you will need.
Learn more about Accept Mission’s features that can help you with open innovation.