Giving you easy access to new sources of innovation, open innovation practices allow you to ask different questions of different communities. As we’ve seen, many companies are embracing these initiatives. More will do the same soon.
So, how can you capture a big enough audience? How can you make sure it is the right audience for your challenge? And, how can you keep participants engaged until you achieve real outcomes?
The solution is to craft your initiatives carefully. You need to maximise your target community’s contribution, taking into account relevance, incentives, communication and good process governance, as I explain next.
1. Find relevance
Many companies have launched ‘suggestion box’ websites, where hundreds, even thousands, of customers can leave their insights. This may seem an easy way to get free ideas. But beware.
How will you decide which ones to implement? Most ideas may prove utterly irrelevant to your business and you’ll strongly affect your returns if you fail to find significance.
Therefore, you have to align your open innovation challenges with your strategic business needs and priorities. To make your efforts worthwhile, you and your leadership team have to define clear timelines and goals, both tangible (projects, ideas and so on) and intangible (culture, positioning, collaboration behaviours and more).
You must not only establish specific and relevant purposes beforehand but also engage those who identify with your cause. Contributors need to share an intellectual and emotional commitment. They have to believe they’ll have an impact on the ability to provide value and have a stake in the value produced.
You should also ponder on Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs), pre-establishing a disclaimer/ agreement for idea ownership. IPRs are designed usually to exclude others from using your ideas. So you have to learn how to reconcile the need to assure idea ownership with the need to attract insights from beyond your company’s boundaries. Legal counselling is also advisable.