Think about the process for innovation at your company. If the engineers are struggling with a problem, do they consult with internal, or even external, sources for potential ideas? Or do they try to figure out a solution within the bounds of their own department?
The best type of innovation can come from a collaboration between different groups and organizations, according to Marcus Blosch, research VP at Gartner. “We call this collaborative approach, which involves the whole business ecosystem, open innovation. It’s the idea that a team should leverage the entire business for ideas, complementary capabilities and resources in order to come up with the best solution,” Blosch said. In today’s business world, complicated problems often require resources and personnel from various departments and companies.
CIOs have responded with open innovation frameworks ranging from crowdsourcing to external ideas that are developed in-house to innovation exchanges.
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When creating an innovation framework that works for your company, establish what the goal is, why open innovation makes sense and how it fits into the company strategy. Finally, select an approach that makes sense for your company and project.
If your company does not have a specific problem to solve, but needs to generate ideas, try a suggestive, participative approach. This logical and most familiar form of open innovation allows anyone with an idea to submit it, and review and rank ideas from other people. This approach does present some challenges because the ideas can be unfocused and difficult to sort. Additionally, this route requires someone with the will to take action on the top ideas.
Real-world approach: Dell created a website called IdeaStorm, which allows any consumer or user to submit ideas about what products they love, how they interact with those products and what new products they would like to see. This platform enables the company to view innovative ideas, as voted on by its community of users, and innovate based on those ideas.
The suggestive, invitational approach targets suggestions from specific potential partners. This innovative technique is not open to everyone; participants are selected by the host company or invited to participate. Additionally, the topic is focused on a specific industry-critical issue and the conversation will focus on a specific type of innovation.
Real-world approach: IBM set up what it calls “Jam” events in which the company hosts online sessions where IBM professionals offer solutions to clients’ problems. The enterprise or company that poses the question then has access to a variety of expertise and experiences on a predetermined topic.
In the directed, invitational framework, companies prescreen and select participants to create an ecosystem of partners. These participants are selected because they have particular technologies or offerings of interest related to the issue at hand.
Real-world approach: When Boeing was designing the Dreamliner, the company partnered with more than 50 key firms, including Rolls-Royce and General Electric, to create the aircraft.
In the final open innovation framework, the company will direct a group of individuals to address a specific innovation. This enables the company to collaborate with a diverse group of individuals, but focus the innovation on a particular problem.
Real-world approach: Red Hat uses this technique to develop software. They’ve created a community based on open-source communities that enables them to solve software issues.
To determine which of these approaches is appropriate, identify your company’s purpose for innovation. Decide whether the problem requires hundreds of responses or just a select few, and how much guidance you would like to offer. These ideas can then be gradually developed and refined as they proceed through the pipeline. Eventually, they will be ready for scale-up and deployment.