During lunch on the second day at the Marcus Evans Open Innovation Conference, I had a conversation with Tony Tomazic, Consumer Innovation Director at Humana, about the aspect of the conference that we both found a bit frustrating: just what the hell is open innovation?
Now in Tony and my defense, we knew what is was walking in (heck, he was one of the expert speakers!), and we weren't alone asking this question: the nine other people at my lunch table (all of whom were responsible for open innovation in their organizations) were wondering the same thing. We found that the various presenters at the conference all had different approaches to it, everything from totally open crowd-sourcing to blind submissions via the internal network. And the presentations were wildly different depending upon the perspective of the speaker. What a great intellectual stew in which to be immersed!
For the record, I love questions that challenge my fundamental understanding of the basics.
In this diagram, there are two axes: X) where the ideas come from and Y) how to obtain participants. The x-axis looks at whether the source of the ideas is from the inside or the outside of the organization. Internal sources might be anything from a "suggestion box" to sophisticated internal idea management systems that stay just within the company intranet. External sources would be systems that go outside of the organization to find industry experts, partners, researchers, or inventors.
The Y-axis refers to how participants are found, ranging from people choosing for themselves that they will participate to those that are actively sought out and recruited for the quality of their ideas or their expertise.
Thus, the graphic. Of note, is that there are organizations that provide systems for making each of these systems work. In the "volunteers" grid you'll find companies like Imaginatik, traditionally focused on internal idea management (but now also at the external end of the spectrum). Moving into the "crowd-sourcing" box you'll find Spigit, whose offering includes customers and partners. When specifically seeking outsiders you'll find a company like Chaordix (who also plays in the "volunteering" box when the engagement requires it). "Scouting & brokers" providers include Innocentive and Maddock Douglas' 6000 person-strong "Global Expert Network." Not coincidentally, all five of these companies mentioned were sponsors of the event.
Do you notice the opportunity space of the one box not mentioned? When we facilitate good old-fashioned in-person ideation sessions and when we train people to facilitate innovation sessions, we'll make sure to work with the client to figure out who we can have show up as a "command performance" so that we can have the "influencers" that are recognized as experts and innovative brains from within the organization (and of course we also deliberately cover the other three quadrants, but that's for another day). Yet from a specific service perspective, if the "Command Performance" quadrant isn't already addressed by an open innovation company, we imagine that it will be shortly. You'll let us know, won't you?
So what is open innovation? It's still what it was when we walked in: looking for solutions from outside the usual sources of your team, division or organization. Yet what it specifically means and how it really works depends on what you need and where you need it from. Which also determines in which quadrant you'll begin your search for new solutions.
Which quadrant works best for you and why?