Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing in Emerging Countries


Share on LinkedIn

Many companies around the world know the benefits of open innovation and crowdsourcing with speed and diversity being the most important ones.

The combination of the two can enable companies that are successful with open innovation to bring better products and services to market faster than their competitors. This is a position that every CEO craves for as this can help develop strong and sustainable competitive advantages.

Executives in emerging countries are looking for such advantages and in this blog post, I will focus on Brazilian executives even though I think you can translate many of my messages to other emerging countries.

Brazilian executives are actually in a fairly good position because the awareness of open innovation and crowdsourcing is quite high in Brazil. There have been lots of conferences and much talk about this. That is the positive side of the story, but there is unfortunately also a darker side to the story.

The execution is lacking.

Is seems as if there is a lack of real commitment to open innovation in Brazil – and probably so other emerging countries. During my visits to this great country, I always look for signs that open innovation and crowdsourcing is moving beyond the hype and more into the machine room of the businesses where real results are created. One thing, I look for are companies that can inspire others, but here I keep getting stuck on just a few companies such as Natura, Itau and Tecnisa.

One big challenge is that many executives do not know how to get started and the same goes for the people in charge of the innovation initiatives.

Here I can recommend the suggestions given in this article, Five Tips to Jumpstart an Open Innovation Program by Jeff Bellairs, Sr. R&D Director at General Mills. His advice is that you should benchmark others, start at the top, tailor to your existing culture, go where you are wanted and appreciate and communicate early wins.

I also need to give a hint – maybe even a warning – to the people in charge of corporate innovation initiatives. Too often, they believe that the corporate education on innovation is all about educating and training the employees. This is important, but it is even more critical that they find ways to educate and train the executives. If the executives do not have the understanding of how (open) innovation works today and what impact this will have on their organizations, then it does not really matter what you do further down the corporate ranks.

Once companies get started with their open innovation efforts, they will soon realize that execution is what really matters. I recently wrote a blog post, People are Key for Better Execution on Innovation – Lessons from Brazil in which a key take on execution is that this is has to be more about people than ideas and projects.

My mantra for innovation is: People first, processes next and then ideas. Ideas are plentiful when you combine internal and external scouting whereas having the right people in place at the right time is more and the processes in place to tie it all together is more difficult.

On execution, I recall a conversation with a Chief Innovation Officer in an organization that does not really operate with a long-term corporate plan. There is no “North Star” to guide them and this actually suited him well as he believes “doing things” is more important.

He mentioned this great quote by Herb Kelleher, former CEO of Southwest Airlines as a way to illustrate his beliefs.

“We have a strategic plan. It’s called doing things.”

My conversation with this person and my interactions with Telefónica on their approach to execution made me loosen up on my belief that companies should have an innovation strategy in place. This is still relevant, but you can get along without it as long as we do not forget one of the key benefits that an innovation strategy can bring to a corporate innovation team.

This is the ability to say no.

You can better allocate resources if you know the direction and you can better turn down new ideas and opportunities if you have a strategy. This is in particular important when you work with innovation because here new ideas are not really the issue.

The abundance of opportunities requires a strong ability for saying NO to people as well as yourself and you do not always have this ability within corporate innovation teams. As a result, they are spread out too thin and thus not able to make a long-term impact within their own organization and their industry.

So planning is important for innovation, but the most powerful tool for making a difference is the ability to execute.

Concepts and frameworks for open innovation and crowdsourcing

Unfortunately, there are not many concepts and frameworks on how companies can embrace open innovation and crowdsourcing. One model that is battle-tested over the years is the Want, Find, Get, Manage model by Gene Slowinski, which you can learn more about in this short video interview.

You can also look at the 7 Steps for Open Innovation framework, which I have developed over the years. The premise for this framework is that if a company is not already fully engaged with open innovation efforts, it is way behind. This is evident by looking at the number of companies around the globe that today embrace the use of external partners and input into their innovation efforts.

But even though companies continuously launch new initiatives designed to help them leverage the power of outside knowledge and resources to drive innovation forward, there is a sense within these companies that they can do better and take this new innovation paradigm to an even higher level.

They are also eager to get external perspective to make sure they are maximizing results by using best practices in all aspects of their open innovation efforts.

To help companies with this evaluation, I have developed a seven-step assessment tool that helps them evaluate these key areas:

1. Common Language and Understanding, Motivation, Mandate and Strategic Purpose
2. Assets and Needs
3. Value Pools and Channels
4. Internal Readiness
5. External Readiness
6. New Skills and Mindset
7. Communications Strategy

This assessment tool will help companies identify where they may be falling short in any of these key areas as well as provide ideas and insights on how to make the necessary improvements that will give more power to their open innovation efforts.

Granted, it might be a bit too early for Brazilian companies to grade their current efforts as most of these companies are just getting started, but the framework as well as the model from Slowinski is also useful as inspiration for this stage.

I look forward to follow the development of open innovation and crowdsourcing in Brazil and in other emerging countries. Get in touch if you have questions or comments.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stefan Lindegaard
Stefan is an author, speaker, facilitator and consultant focusing on open innovation, social media tools and intrapreneurship.


  1. Stefan, this is very interesting. There is one thing that you don’t mention, it’s that Brazil is a fairly protective country and its business culture is very much focused on local partnerships rather than global ones. It is hard for non-Brazilian companies to do business with Brazilian coompanies, and I know some crowdsourcing companies who have tried to enter this market but had a very tough time estiblishing themselves because they were not local. Does that resonate with your experience or knowledge on the field?

    By the way, here’s an interesting post about crowdsourcing in Brazil:

  2. Hi Yannig, I can follow your points, but I also think this is changing although I do not have a good enough feel to gauge the pace of this. Another issue in Brazil is that companies have a patriarchal structure. Everyone listens to the boss and do not really want to challenge them. Since executives very often know the least on open innovation and crowdsourcing, this is also a problem.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here