Innovation – forget the words Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing

Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing have become buzz words of late which is a shame as it encourages those who blindly adopt best practice to jump on the bandwagon. It is often said that to truly understand a situation you must know enough to be afraid and there are too many consultants pushing concepts on unsuspecting businesses and organisations without really understanding what they are telling organisations to do.

The thing is that Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing really are valuable tools in our quest for Innovation. When innovating we have a dilemma, do we try to keep the fruits of our labours secret for as long as possible to secure as great a competitive advantage as possible, or do we throw our net outside of our organization to gather the maximum number of ideas and encourage communications/interactions with outside (and possibly competitor) organisations?

There are many issues surrounding Open Innovation, such as how to manage it, how to select the participants/collaborators and exploiting the results. Much of this is common sense if you have your wits about you. Essentially you have a choice, keep it in house or look outside, perhaps even conducting your business in public as some educational establishments do. The aim though, is to understand, not blindly follow the ‘How To Innovate For Dummies’ guide.

The fuel for Innovation is ideas and to generate ideas we need people to interact with each other. The more debate and creative tension, the higher the quality of ideas generated and the greater their number will be also. To get to this stage we need more bodies, a crowd. Crowdsourcing is effectively outsourcing the generation of ideas and the solution of problems to a crowd. The UK government’s attempt to gather ideas for policies via their website is an example of this. Your crowd can communicate remotely or be in the same location (see the Open Space technique) and interaction fuel debate or facilitate building of ideas.

Once again there are issues such as managing your crowd and capturing ideas, but once you are aware of the principle of Innovation then everything is pretty much common sense.

So please forget the words Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing but do learn as much as possible about them, understand the concepts and employ them properly. If you really do know enough to be afraid then you understand the concepts fully enough to be able to employ them to create success for your organisation.


Innovation, Creativity, Brainstorming, Outcome, Open – STOP

I normally carefully plan the articles that I post to my blog and to various websites that I subscribe to but in this case I am driven by Innovation Rage!

Each day I see posts telling me exactly how to be creative, how to manage my innovation projects and who I should collaborate with. Each time the articles seem to become more prescriptive and hence more constraining. Taken too much further this would mean that all of those gurus out there are actually stifling Creativity and Innovation. Remember, Charles Handy once said that guru is just a word that Americans use instead of charlatan!!

As a recent post suggested, Innovation is about tomorrow and not yesterday or even today, so how can we predict in such detail? Surely Innovation is about attitude, behaviours, skills and know how? We take a look at where we might like to go and then apply ourselves to getting there? Maybe we take a circuitous route, maybe we never get there at all but we usually go somewhere.

Is SatNav innovation applied to transport or is it restricting our enjoyment of travel? Would it be more innovative to ban SatNav or maps? Perhaps we should ban private vehicles so that travel becomes a social experience as we are compelled to interact with each other?

I’m sure that the companies that we most think of as innovative such as Google, 3M etc don’t have a complete documented system (if there is a manual they won’t follow it) they just get on with it. The ‘system’ such as it is, is embedded in company culture. Those wanting to adopt someone else’s Innovation best practice should be careful. Best practice is yesterday’s implementation and taken out of context can be dangerous.

So throw away the labels and your best practice manuals and start experimenting (and throw away your SatNav if you dare).

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