With the growth of technology and new ways of working, innovation is playing a huge role in the workplace. The most successful organizations are those that can prep for the future and push the envelope creatively to find the next innovative idea. But what if how we have been thinking about innovation is all wrong? Open innovation is a newer idea that is spreading across industries and changing how companies work together and plan for the future.
What is open innovation?
The traditional way of thinking about innovation has been to create the best ideas for your individual company and then keep them to yourself so you can sustain value. If your organization creates a new way of manufacturing a certain product, tradition has said that your group needs to be the one to own it and continue developing and distributing it.
Open innovation, however, turns that idea on its head by realizing that not every company will always have the best resources and the smartest people, especially as the workforce changes and employees move between companies more quickly. Instead, open innovation allows different groups and individuals to work together to create the best and most innovative system possible. After all, your company may benefit from an innovative business plan, but that isn’t one of your team’s core competencies; by patterning with another organization, you can tap into their resources and knowledge to create a forward-thinking solution that meets your needs.
How does it work?
According to Stephen Hoover, CEO of PARC, a Xerox Company and one of the leaders of the open innovation concept, innovation happens when you are looking at small and big things. Companies that successfully innovate have both a grand vision for the future and a plan of how to improve their products and services tomorrow. Both ideas can be applied to open innovation. PARC, for example, is currently working with a large consumer packaged goods company to create a strategy that helps the brand reach today’s digitally connected consumers. A team of cultural social scientists is putting together blended groups from all areas of both companies to test the innovation on real customers. Open innovation also happens when groups scan for opportunities, especially when it comes to technology, and when businesses are acquired and the information and innovation can be shared.
At its core, open innovation is going outside your own company walls to co-innovate with another organization, team, or individual.
What are the challenges?
Re-thinking innovation is bound to have some challenges, but most obstacles to open innovation can be overcome fairly easily with good communication. Both sides of the innovation team must be on the same page about how much risk they are willing to take–some companies are comfortable investing large amounts of money in future plans, while others tend to play it safer. There’s no right answer, but it can be difficult to bring these two mindsets together to successfully co-create. There also must be trust between the two sides, especially as information is shared back and forth. Both groups must be comfortable with what is being shared; that issue should fade away as open innovation becomes more commonplace.
Open innovation changes how businesses and industries work together. Instead of each organization working in its own bubble, we are now open to share information and work together to create the best vision for the future possible. To start with open innovation, consider how it could be used in your organization, and then get out there and talk to people that could be a good fit to collaborate. As technology and the future change, being able to innovate, collaborate, and adapt will be more important than ever before. Open innovation gives companies and individuals the tools to lead the way.