As a cluster organization, we work constantly to bring together different types of competencies and get them to collaborate on various innovation processes. Open innovation is about opening up one’s innovation process to include even external parties. It can be about sharing one’s ideas, assets, needs and challenges to receive valuable input and find new potential collaborators. The expression open innovation was introduced by Dr. Henry Chesbrough in the 2003 book ”Open Innovation: The new imperative for creating and profiting from technology.”
“Open innovation is a paradigm that assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as the firms look to advance their technology.”
No one is an expert about everything!
Many innovative ideas tend to come from the most unexpected directions. Using open innovation makes it possible for more people to join and engage themselves in your innovation process. It gives you access to and the opportunity to build on the knowledge, thoughts and experiences of others that can lead to unimaginable results. Using models for open innovation is largely about widening your contact network to find new collaborations and be inspired by others. In turn, this can lead to new innovative ideas. An open innovation process takes time and seldom generates quick solutions. Instead, it’s about posing open questions and letting those invited into the process lead you forward. Maybe it’s their follow-up questions that give you the right answers.
To open up and tell your plans, problems or the challenges you face can feel uncomfortable in relation to your target groups, customers, collaborators and competitors – because what happens if they get to know your strategies or weaknesses?
On the other hand an invitation to participate and collaborate can create engagement, understanding and deeper relationships in a way that favors not only your development but also your reputation.
The first step in an open innovation process is to dare. Begin with yourself! What knowledge and experiences can you share that can be of help to someone else? If it feels uncomfortable to share your best ideas, start with sharing your mistakes. To offer knowledge about pitfalls and which ideas didn’t work can be at least as beneficial.
Theoretically we all see the benefits in helping each other, but regardless, we often prefer to keep things to ourselves and seldom engage in the problems of individuals we do not know. Using open innovation as a method can feel unsafe and frightening. Questions like ”How should I behave?,” ”What if someone steals my idea?” and ”What am I allowed to say?” come up often.
Good knowledge about how one should behave in an open environment is required to be able to apply open innovation in a successful way. To completely benefit from open innovation, it is important that all participants feel secure. Begin by increasing the open innovation competency of those who will participate, offer guidance and support and be clear about what applies for participants and how ideas that come forward will be handled. Also remember that an open innovation environment does not necessarily need to be open for anyone. Ensure that everyone involved knows the prerequisities for who is invited to participate.
It will never be completely risk free to participate in an open innovation process. Participants must be convinced that the potential gains from using open innovation outweigh the risks. For example, those who share their knowledge and needs must also get a guarantee of receiving something in return. Be clear with what incentives apply – is it money, contacts, collaboration, recognition or some other form of incentive that motivates participants to engage themselves in your innovation process? Maybe it’s something as simple as an exchange of ideas and competencies?
What are your thoughts?
- Do you face any challenges that could be solved with open innovation?
- What would you be able to share in an open innovation process?
- What benefits do you see with open innovation?
- What risks do you see? How can you counteract them?