Agreeing to undertake an Open Innovation project and identifying suitable Challenges are only the first steps in the Crowdsourcing process. Accompanying this action must be a definitive move towards broadening perspectives at both the company and personal level. What follows are three of the main mental barriers we frequently encounter with clients and suggested means through which to overcome them – in doing so, helping you optimise the results from Open Innovation.
1. Removing the “Not Invented Here” Paradigm
The first organisational perspective that can become a barrier to Open Innovation is the premise of “Not Invented Here”. Your company considers itself an industry leader; employing the smartest people and using considerable funds to provide them with the cutting edge technology and equipment needed to deliver the innovations for the twenty-first century. How can it be that someone else, somewhere else, perhaps with inferior resources, could possibly solve your problem?
Not Invented here is also a powerful factor on the personal level. If organisationally you consider this to be worrisome, then the response from the scientific lead may be an even stronger revulsion to the Crowdsourcing model. To overcome both, companies need to overtly acknowledge this paradigm. Instead of seeing it as a weakness or failure, leadership should reward those employees who recognise when they may not be able to solve a problem optimally themselves, or feel an expedited process may be possible by accessing the crowd. Scientific owners of the problem should consider Crowdsourcing as an auxiliary method that can help their work in the longer run: while actionable, solutions are rarely finished products that can be plug-and-played and instead their guidance and expertise will be required to utilise the solutions that were garnered.
Open Innovation is not a panacea. Innovation is not a zero-sum game whereby Crowdsourcing will eradicate internal R&D. It is an innovation tool that complements other processes and can be the catalyst for further partnerships, research or longer-term results. Companies that alter their perspective on where solutions come from, and are willing to open their problems to the crowd are taking the initial steps in this process.
2. Forgetting any western-elite bias
The acceptance of solutions coming from outside your organisation is the first step, however stride by stride must be the removal of any western-elite bias in your thinking. I’m often astounded by the premise that the only Solvers that matter are those from the triad of North America, Western Europe & Japan; that only well-endowed researchers from the OECD could possibly understand the Challenge premise, let alone present a solution.
As noted in a previous blog post, our Solver Network is truly global with ever increasing representation from around the world. But more importantly, the winning solutions clients are receiving are coming from all four corners. Institutionalised thinking from those who have been taught the same way, researched the same theses, and undertaken the same experiments does not stop at the office door. The phenomenon is transferable to academia and others. The truly innovative thoughts come from the unknowns – those working from a blank canvas that do not hold the prejudices and/or subjectivity. These could be from an unforeseen industry, or an unexpected country.
The InnoCentive methodology provides anonymity in the solutions to prevent a knowledge of origin or Solver expertise, but the promotion of the Challenge and initial corporate thought process needs to mirror this. A bias on who could solve your Challenge defeats the purpose of Crowdsourcing and could constrict the positioning of a Challenge; overcoming this predisposition is key.
3. Acknowledging your initial problem statement may not reflect what you truly need
Challenges are a point for many opinions to converge, viewpoints to be offered, and solutions be proposed. The strength of the crowd comes not from its narrow applicability to a certain scientific field, but from the transferable knowledge that 375,000 people can bring to the problem. This nexus of creativity is what a Challenge harnesses and thus the writing of the problem statement needs to reflect this.
Our specially trained PhD-educated Principals have years of experience in developing Challenges and have an acute understanding of what is the core information that’s needed for a successful solution, and discarding that which will constrain the thinking of Solvers. This may result in a vastly different Challenge than when you first started the process, but decluttering requirements & criteria, demystifying industry specific terminology, and reducing the Challenge to the absolute necessities will help achieve more impactful solutions. Our workshop training spends extensive time thinking about how problems should be positioned and what is truly required. It’s a journey that our Principals will guide you on, but from 15 years of developing our Challenge Driven Innovation methodology, and with over 2000 Challenges run, we’re confident that this new way of thinking and positioning problems will deliver the truly meaningful outcomes.
Open Innovation offers unique opportunities, but it does not come without its own necessities and prerequisites. These are not only technical and scientific, but in fact the greatest barrier to successful programmes may often be a mental framework – altering this state and changing perspectives will allow objective decisions and will facilitate the greatest benefits being achieved.
If you’re interested in understanding more about our training, methodology or would like to crowdsource solutions yourself, please get in contact here.