Mindjet Perspectives: Embracing Open Innovation for Better Business
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Mindjet Perspectives: Embracing Open Innovation for Better Business

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Business innovation is a practice in paradox. Giving innovation room to breathe is important for the expansion and flexibility of good ideas; still, measuring the success of change is critical to ...

Business innovation is a practice in paradox. Giving innovation room to breathe is important for the expansion and flexibility of good ideas; still, measuring the success of change is critical to building strategies around innovation initiatives.

The ambition to bring something new to market is in a constant face-off with the need to prove that it solves a problem. Fortunately, the growing practice of implementing new innovation strategies is helping companies to create effective, synthesized business disciplines. As a result, we’re seeing more and more organizations embrace the practice of open innovation, which allows everyone to maximize resources, ideas, and even people internally and externally.

Open innovation also requires a strategic blueprint: a non-linear approach to feedback, evaluation, and iteration. By mapping out these preferable traits against methods of analysis and other company efforts, businesses can visually assess the relationships between things like funding and user communities, or trace the paths of failed initiatives to see where things went wrong. Because business innovation is, by nature, cyclical, its application informs its success or failure, which in turn determines approach.

Below is our take on open innovation, including its advantages and pitfalls. And as open innovation continues to become more strategically relevant, its evolution will help businesses think differently about how they ideate and function, and how approaches built on communal thinking, creativity, and shared resources will launch us into a future of progressive change and growth.

And that’s really what innovation is all about, anyway.

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  • Really interesting, thanks ​!

    Given your interest, I think you'll be very much interested in this list of emerging Open Innovation research: http://www.openinnovation.eu/07-05-2013/768/

    And in this new research too:

    - The Contours of Crowd Capability
    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2324637

    Powerful stuff, no?
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Mindjet Perspectives: Embracing Open Innovation for Better Business Mindjet Perspectives: Embracing Open Innovation for Better Business Document Transcript

  • MINDJET PERSPECTIVES Embracing Open Innovation for Better Business
  • MINDJET PERSPECTIVES Intro Business innovation is a practice in paradox. Giving innovation room to breathe is important for the expansion and flexibility of good ideas; still, measuring the success of change is critical to building strategies around innovation initiatives. JASCHA KAYKAS-WOLFF The ambition to bring something new to market is in a constant face-off with the need to prove that it solves a problem. Fortunately, the growing practice of implementing new innovation strategies is helping companies to create effective, synthesized business disciplines. As a result, we’re seeing more and more organizations embrace the practice of open innovation, which allows everyone to maximize resources, ideas, and even people internally and externally. Open innovation also requires a strategic blueprint: a non-linear approach to feedback, evaluation, and iteration. By mapping out these preferable traits against methods of analysis and other company efforts, businesses can visually assess the relationships between things like funding and user communities, or trace the paths of failed initiatives to see where things went wrong. Because business innovation is, by nature, cyclical, its application informs its success or failure, which in turn determines approach. Below is our take on open innovation, including its advantages and pitfalls. And as open innovation continues to become more strategically relevant, its evolution will help businesses think differently about how they ideate and function, and how approaches built on communal thinking, creativity, and shared resources will launch us into a future of progressive change and growth. And that’s really what innovation is all about, anyway. Jascha Kaykas-Wolff Chief Marketing Officer, Mindjet 2
  • MINDJET PERSPECTIVES Open Innovation and Competitive Advantage: A Risk You Should Be Willing to Take The term open innovation sometimes scares people – sharing company resources and approaches externally can seem pretty risky. But in reality, it’s the practice of merging your internal assets and resources with those outside of your organization, in order to get the best value from what you have and what’s out there. Sometimes that means sharing talent and ideas with another company, but often it can be the practice of actively capitalizing on the nearly limitless knowledge of the world, to increase things like shareholder value, customer satisfaction, and even product engineering and development methods. Early to Risk, Early to Rise It’s safe to say that we’ve all been at least exposed to — if not bludgeoned with — the idea that greater risks lead to greater rewards (when they don’t completely fail, that is). That said, these should be calculated risks built on strategy, with more than just some cursory market knowledge thrown in. You can’t just tell people to go forth and innovate openly; as important as things like ownership and autonomy are, accountability is difficult to measure without some type of expectation to measure against. Plus, if open innovation is a new venture, employees without positional authority are unlikely to feel comfortable reaching outside of the company congregation. Leaders have to be at the helm of developing and implementing goals. 3
  • MINDJET PERSPECTIVES Open Innovation and Competitive Advantage: A Risk You Should Be Willing To Take Still, the fact that open innovation is a risk for most companies means you might not reach those goals right away. But, as is typical in the early stages of any new approach, it’s much more important to build a culture than demand immediate, concrete results. The practice of open innovation is about transforming connections across companies and other entities into a vision, and then using tactical application to bring that vision to life. The Innovation Hub Truth be told, time-tested systematic approaches to innovation just aren’t working anymore. They’re not enough, which is exactly why reaching beyond the realm of internal resources can be so beneficial. Truly open innovation models are rare, though, despite the fact that we currently have access to endless data and talent through analytics and social networks. However, creating an “innovation hub” can get you started with an actionable framework that seems a lot less scary than the ambiguous notion of company partnering. The folks over at Innovation Excellence note that, for an open innovation hub to work, “leaders [must] combine technical know-how with commercial sense.” Eloquently put, and important for any organization who wants to take the following hub-creation steps to heart: “The five steps of creating an innovation hub are ‘want, find, assess, get, and transition.’ You start with a tight brief, with a defined innovation strategy of the [partnering] company, to be clear about what you want and what your specific requirements are; you find interesting assets externally, you assess them, you ‘get’ them by structuring term sheets, and then you transition them into the company.” The idea of open innovation can be a little intimidating — after all, sharing isn’t always caring in the business arena — and the first step is always the hardest to take. But when it’s done right, innovating openly through B2B collaboration can be the difference between competitive advantage and competitor takeover. 4
  • MINDJET PERSPECTIVES When Efficiency is the Enemy of Innovation For all the talk these days of openness, transparency, and company-wide innovation as critical competitive advantages, most of it remains just that – talk. We talk about the death of hierarchy and the rise of social business. About bottom-up innovation and the meritocracy of ideas. About the newly empowered, constantly connected knowledge worker. About the importance – nay, the necessity – of fostering meaningful relationships between brands and consumers. Yet for all our well-meaning lip service to the twin utopian idols of Social Business and Innovation, these sad, stubborn facts remain: 1. Fewer than 1 in 5 CEOs believe their investments in innovation are paying off, even though 93 percent said innovation is critical to their organization’s long-term success. 2. 7 out of 10 American workers have emotionally checked out of their jobs. A Well-Known Problem, Poorly Understood The dismal state of employee engagement and the discouraging results of innovation investment are two sides of the same coin. After all, numerous studies show that business go hand-in-hand. The strange thing is that everyone already knows this – CEOs, HR, and middle managers all already understand the importance of an engaged, empowered workforce… in theory. 5
  • MINDJET PERSPECTIVES When Efficiency is the Enemy of Innovation In practice, however, most organizations continue to struggle. I could write volumes about departmental silos, conflicting priorities, restrictive top-down hierarchies, inflexible work environments, and many other common sources of employee misery. But today I want to touch on another culprit, that sacred cow of the C-suite: capital ‘E’ Efficiency. Embracing (the Right Kind of) Inefficiency But what, you ask, could be wrong with efficiency? After all, don’t all of the problems listed above contribute to inefficiencies that make our jobs harder, more stressful, and less engaging? Absolutely. The wrong kinds of inefficiency – the ones that get in the way of doing great work, like unnecessary bureaucracy and hierarchy – can make our lives miserable. But the right kinds of inefficiency – the ones that invite us to bump up against the prejudices, assumptions, and oversights hidden in the way we do business – can be positively magical. Jason Fried recently wrote with great eloquence about doing things that don’t scale, and the valuable lessons and yes, innovations, that came from embracing inefficiency. He writes: “Automation can… lead to myopia. And premature-automation can lead to blindness. When you take human interaction out of a system, you’re removing key opportunities to see what really happens along the way. You miss stories, experiences, and struggles – and that’s often where the real insights are hiding.” And that’s the real lesson. Today’s business leaders are so obsessed with efficiency that they’ve left little room in their organizations for humanity. For years now, employees have been asked to wring a little more productivity, a little more efficiency out of dwindling staff, longer hours, and lower budgets. Is it any surprise that these same employees are also disengaged and failing to innovate? To Be Human Is to Be Inefficient The appeal of efficiency is its promise of simplicity – strip away everything superfluous, and what remains is a seamless, simple, elegant solution (in theory). Inefficiency, on the other hand, is inherently messy and inelegant. It forces you to recognize that there isn’t always a simple answer, which can be an uncomfortable realization. But I’ve got news for you: the biggest problems in business and in the world today don’t have simple answers. They are as complicated, irrational, and terribly inefficient as the humans who caused them, and solving them will require the resources of consumers, governments, and companies all working together – open innovation (a necessarily inefficient process) at its finest. To be human is to be inefficient. And that’s wonderful — because when we open ourselves to the crazy, sexy, inefficient potential lurking inside the human brain, we can accomplish great things. 6
  • MINDJET PERSPECTIVES Crowdsourcing: Open Innovation at its Finest There are approximately 7 billion+ people wandering around this planet at any given time, about 3/4 of which are considered adults and, if we’re being generous, have the potential to come up with great ideas once in awhile. And, if those roughly 5.2 billion adults have even just one brilliant idea a month, that’s over 60 billion opportunities for innovation per year that enter the collective human mind. Even if you cut these numbers in half, to account for things like unvoiced inspiration or infinite circumstantial variables, it’s boggling to consider what kinds of genius we’re missing out on — and why we aren’t missing out on stuff that’s not so genius. With the vast majority of businesses worldwide citing innovation as a top priority, the rising adoption of crowdsourcing is incredibly important. Now, we just have to figure out a way to go from encouraging mass ideation to actually harnessing and translating those ideas into progressive, global solutions. A Tangible Platform Before I dive in here, I do want to clarify that crowdsourcing and open innovation are not interchangeable terms. They’re closely linked when it comes to process and mutual benefit, but crowdsourcing is really more of a platform for generating the ideas that can lead to open innovation. It’s a way of engaging people to provide resources outside of standard organizational means — i.e., your team or go-to subject matter experts. It becomes a type of open innovation when the act of crowdsourcing helps people to come up with a new approach to a problem or need (or, you know — to innovate). 7
  • MINDJET PERSPECTIVES Crowdsourcing: Open Innovation at its Finest That said, crowdsourcing is an example of exactly how magical open innovation can be, especially when it creates and expands value beyond just solving a problem, or streamlining a pre-existing process. And as with most tools that we adopt to help us innovate, crowdsourcing isn’t something that works well when it’s done haphazardly. There has to be a well thought-out foundation of strategy, and moreover, there needs to be a protocol for taking a eureka-moment and turning it into something functional. Sometimes it’s not just about searching out ideas. To take advantage of crowdsourcing in a pragmatic way, do like Google did when they sent GPS kits to India to facilitate the creation of user-generated maps. By trading schwag for data on lesser-known areas, granting access to proprietary tools, and laying down a clear, repeatable process, they were able to capitalize on crowdsourcing for the betterment of their own mapping database and the community they involved — a definitive example of open innovation at work. Creativity and Community Some people believe that ideation and innovation are uniquely human, but now everyone agrees; after all, we have to consider the rest of the animal world’s unexpected capacity for developing solutions to different problems, using tools, and forming communities. What is uniquely human, though, is our ability to find creative approaches to unforeseen needs; to recognize and analyze both historical and emerging patterns, and make accurate predictions based on repetition. It’s because of that singularity that crowdsourcing for innovation is such a potent way of leveraging ideation for global progress. This type of open innovation is the apex of our aggregate tools, ingenuity, and brilliance. It doesn’t hurt, either, that crowdsourcing typically reduces overall costs, increases company exposure, and capitalizes on one of humanity’s most powerful objectives — to stay connected. By empowering atypical groups or people to think together, and by tapping into an essentially endless pool of knowledge, crowdsourcing for innovation opens the door to unlimited potential for your business. 8
  • MINDJET PERSPECTIVES Want to know more? To find out how Mindjet can help your organization improve productivity, collaboration, innovation practices, and overall success, visit our shop and find the solution that’s right for you. Learn more about productivity and innovation by visiting Conspire, Mindjet’s company blog. 9
  • MINDJET PERSPECTIVES 10
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