Social Media for Innovation Brings More Questions than Answers


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The use of social media services and tools in innovation efforts bring more questions than answers. This was concluded after a session I led on the open innovation meets social media intersection.

Interestingly enough, only 1 out of 17 participants, who were a mix of corporate and university people believed that the use of social media for innovation was highly overhyped. So it is not really the why that is being questioned; it is the how.

We lack good cases especially on how B2B companies use social media for innovation. The cases we discussed/liked at the session were IBM’s Innovation Jam, Psion’s Ingenuity Working, LEGO Cuusoo and GE’s Ecomagination Challenge.

I have no doubt other cases will surface in the coming years as companies begin to experiment even more with this intersection, but right now it is difficult to find good cases. Let me know if you have something to share : – )

I like to use the Discovery – Incubation – Acceleration model as developed by the Radical Innovation Group to discuss the progress of innovation projects. If we use this to estimate the current value of using social media for innovation projects, I think it looks like this:

Discovery: HIGH value as companies can use social media tools and services to get input and insights for their projects. Think crowdsourcing and communities that deliver interactions and conversations. Since knowledge – and especially the combination of knowledge from different sources – is key to make innovation happen, a tool such as LinkedIn is also useful to identify people who can contribute to innovation efforts. The search function in LinkedIn is pretty powerful once you get above 150-200 contacts.

Incubation: This is where innovation really happens and here the value of social media is LOW. The reason is that this is more about creating an infrastructure to make virtual collaboration happen and as such the current social media tools and services seem to be complementary, but not core.

However, as this is very much about the innovation engine of a company, social media can be used to brand and promote the corporate innovation capabilities. This is becoming increasingly important as companies fight to become the preferred innovation partner within their industries. Here the value of social media is HIGH.

Acceleration: HIGH value as this is about using social media to promote the innovation outcomes. This is more of a marketing function and social media is already an established force for this.

I think it is just fine that we accept that there are more questions than answers to this intersection. Now, we “just” have to explore the why’s and how’s and your insights are highly appreciated for this.

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.


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