Open Innovation Greetings from the Road!

Posted by Tom Venable on May 7, 2008 3:07:05 PM

Last week was quite a travel adventure for me as I winded across the US and had meetings with innovation leaders from all over the world.We started out in Los Angeles attending the Milken Institute Global Conference. Thought leaders from around the globe gathered to discuss the most pressing issues of the day as well as the newest in business and technical innovations. Present among the crowd were Sumner Redstone, Bill Bennett, Governor SchwarzeneggerMaria Bartiromo, Michael Milken and many others. At the conference we had the opportunity to participate in a couple of panel sessions focused on building WE rather than ME organizations.

InnoCentive's Board Member Barry Libert and his company, mZinga were our gracious hosts at the event, and their platform for workplace and customer community development combined with InnoCentive for a great story. Open innovation was a hot topic all across the conference and the turnout for you panel was so great people were turned away at the door due to room capacity constraints! In one session we used the SunNight Solar Challenges as an example of Open Innovation and we gave out a few dozen of the now famous orange BOGO flashlights. It was fascinating to see the response of the audience when we talked about our Solver community and the creative solutions they bring to the table. I had the pleasure to describe some of our great Solvers and weave success stories like the Oil Spill Recovery Challenge, Rockefeller Challenges in front of world business leaders.  

After Milken, we headed over to New York and DC for meetings with two very large potential Seeker Clients.   Both of these organizations could be considered "old economy" type organizations that on the surface don't seem very "innovative" - let alone innovating “openly.” Much to our surprise, our prize based innovation business model is becoming quite acceptable even in these organizations that historically have had a "not invented here" mentality.

One of the interesting sub topics that continues to be debated among larger organizations is the amount of "cloaking" around the identity of the Seeker and the purpose of the challenge. If you are going to leverage Open Innovation, then the question always becomes; "What are the risks of being open versus the rewards of diversified thought?" The risks people are concerned about are exposure of their identity, problems they can't solve which may expose weakness and the disclosure of the product development pipeline. These are all very valid risks to be sure.  Of course the other side of the argument is value of getting solutions from the CROWD is invaluable and often produces results never before achieved internally.  As you can imagine the attitudes on this topic run as wide as Pacific Ocean.   

One advocate of "lower cloaking" came up with a great line.  It goes like this:  "Abject paranoia and open innovation are mutually exclusive."

For you open innovation advocates on this blog, go ahead and use that line royalty free!

Tom

Topics: Challenges, Seekers

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