It was a pleasure having Stefan Lindegaard share his views on open innovation best practices and the barriers innovators face in implementing them. During our webinar on May 22nd, Stefan described open innovation as a mindset, one that requires change and commitment within an organization. This mindset requires openness towards alternative and collaborative sources of innovation. The following observations expand on some of Stefan's key points and represent our take on best practices any innovative culture must embrace today.
Empower your employees
I had the incredible opportunity to work at one of the fastest growing start-ups in the country for my first real job. We embraced transparency, trusted our employees, and had a company culture that was not only fun but fueled innovation. Employees were accountable but they were also told to expand their horizons as long as it didn’t affect their day job. It is important for employees to not feel like micro-managed robots. One issue with large companies is their rigid corporate command and control structure, and you often find start-ups have rejected this structure. Indeed, the low man on the totem pole’s word is taken just as seriously as a tenured manager within start-ups. When this happens, you increase the value of your employee base and you also open the doors for innovation to come from all quarters.
Embrace Innovative and Experimental Behavior
Another lesson I learned from my days at the start-up is the importance of intrapreneurship. The closely related cousin to entrepreneurship simply means that the internal mindset of an organization embraces the same characteristics that any business owner has. The intrapreneur finds new ways to internally develop new revenue streams, build out business ideas, and launch them into practice. Enable your employees to be their own CEOs and be responsible for the results of any project they take on. However, as Stefan discussed, it is hard to get to this step unless your employees are empowered to be creative and managers are willing to accept experimental behavior.
Develop Idea and People Pools
Come up with a company-wide way of sharing new ideas and projects. At InnoCentive, we offer internal and external Challenge-driven tools, and as Stefan explains, there are different stages in the innovation process that may require different people. The “discovery” process may be seeded by a different division than the “incubation” process. Further down the road during the “acceleration” process, a company may find external resources are more efficient in launching a new product.
Failure is Good
This might be the hardest concept for a seasoned executive to accept. Failure is not a word the traditional business world and large corporations typically accept. Think of it this way: if employees can’t fail and a company culture does not accept failure, then how are its employees supposed to be creative? Being calculated and careful may promote short term stability but inhibit long term innovation. Stefan reminds us that no company sets a goal for failure. My favorite example of this is Steve Jobs. Apple struggled to gain momentum as a company and eventually Jobs got fired. He spent the time away developing the groundwork for the future Apple. Possessing a new creative streak, Job's new company was bought by Apple and the rest is history. Jobs failed many times, and it had consequences on Apple's stock price and market valuation, but would anybody today consider Apple a failure? Failure fueled this innovative genius to think outside the box and find a new way for consumers to embrace technology.
Reward Innovative Behavior
Pride is a major roadblock to innovation. If someone has a good idea, reward them, even if it seems ridiculous. As I said before, barriers to entry in open innovation are endless and pride plays a part in this. Stefan tells us to embrace the creativity of our employees and reward them. Remember, it does not matter what employee came up with the idea. Recognize your employees first and consider taking the next step of a competitive prize competition to induce further creative behavior. Then look ahead and expand beyond your internal resources. Once your employees are empowered, listen to them and also look to utilizing the collective "think tank" of the external world. Recognizing and rewarding innovative behavior expands the knowledge base of your company. In the end, it all comes back to a few simple ideas; empower your employees and reward innovation over traditional modalities of work.
If you would like to listen a replay of Stefan’s Innovation Culture webinar, please find it here: Innovation Culture: The Big Elephant in the Room.
Authored by Joe Artese, Business Analyst