Zen and Open Innovation

Posted by jartese on Jul 19, 2013 1:35:08 PM

What does Zen have to do with Open Innovation? One is ancient and the other is relatively new. One is spiritual and the other is a service. Well, there’s a great quote in the book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

In today’s world, the experts are those smart people in your R&D, New Product Development, or Innovation organization who are charged with discovering the next great thing – drug, material, product, process…you name it. Often they are highly educated and specialized people with PhDs and Master's degrees. For many of the everyday problems you face, they are the right people to tackle it. But most companies run into problems that they are having trouble solving or it’s just taking too long to find a solution. This is where traditional innovation methods run into a problem.

Your experts have years of education that prepared them to think a certain way. Then they join an organization that has developed an approach – a set of processes – that it uses to solve problems. The net effect is that experts often end up with a set of blinders on. As Albert Einstein once said, “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” Experts become very good at telling you why something can’t be done.

Beginners, or non-experts in the area of the problem, are not hindered by what they don’t know. Instead of potential roadblocks, they see a world of possibilities. It’s like the HP commercials from the 1980s when an HP employee has a “what if” moment and a new idea or innovation is born. That’s the beauty of Open Innovation. By tapping into the diverse minds and talent of hundreds of thousands, or millions, of people all over the world, you never know what “beginner” will have a “what if” moment that can solve a month's or even decade's old problem.

Authored by David Weisman, Director of Business Development, InnoCentive

Topics: Innovation Insights

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