Open innovation is nothing new. Innovations have always openly been achieved despite boundaries and across organisations. It is a fact that ideas always evolve from exchange – the reason why Steven Johnson, author of the book “Where good Ideas come from”, sees coffee houses as true idea labs.
“This is not the wisdom of the crowd, but the wisdom of someone in the crowd. It’s not that the network itself is smart; it’s that the individuals get smarter because they’re connected to the network.” Steven Johnson
The reason why open innovation is popular nowadays is because it empowers us to access new ideas and the social networks build around them, which was not possible before. Innovation hubs act as network nodes with open doors and work in the same way as innovation challenges. People from different disciplines and with different passions come together around a shared purpose. This is the best recipe to bring ideas to fruition. We are constantly witnessing the creation of idea networks, which allows to exchange success stories but also lessons learnt from failures. British author Charles Leadbeater in this context refers to systemic innovation and predicts that “systems innovation will become the most important focus for companies and governments, cities and entire societies.” In the last decade there has been a growing focus on product and services innovation as a source of competitive advantage.
Open innovation communities go further by experimenting with new business models for profit and non-profit and different financing models such as crowdfunding. This evolving ecosystem has great potential for organisation and companies to tap into the immense knowledge that an organisation can hardly provide on its own. It helps develop products directly with consumers and beneficiaries. The logic of open innovation also provides a path for organisations to avoid the innovation gap. If they are willing to bear the consequences such as an open source culture and other new models of cooperation they can keep up with the rapid pace of innovation and equally establish new forms of communication structures.
Open innovation is a process to shift an organisation or company to a different mindset of exchanging. It is not a tool that can just be implemented over the same communication bedrock, on which a company normally works. Rather, it is a different way of communication, including people and valuing their ideas. It is believing in each participant having expertise or experience to be shared for innovation. It means changing hierarchical communication structures into horizontal ones and for the management to above all start listening and setting the right environment and incentives to let people exchange as much as possible and brainstorm in all directions. Empowering people does not make us weaker, on the contrary, it makes us richer as we benefit from what others build with that empowerment.
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About the Author
Christian Kreutz is an author, speaker, strategic advisor and expert in open and social innovation. He has been advising for over 10 years organizations such as the World Bank, GIZ, UNDP, Nesta, Deutsche Welle and the Bertelsmann Foundation, providing them with the necessary insights and tools to build their corporate innovation capabilities. As the director of Crisscrossed GmbH, he has developed various projects such as WE THINQ – a social software for change makers to empower citizens, employees and stakeholders to asses challenges and find creative solutions through new forms of cooperation. He believes in the power of transparency and holds the potential of open and shared knowledge as the foundation for sustainable innovation. He writes about his journeys on social innovation and the use of information and communication technologies centered on people on his widely cited blog www.crisscrossed.net.