The world is full of problems. Any company trying to make a name for itself in the world is going to run right smack into those problems. But the world is also full of solutions. To better find and profit from those solutions, companies are increasingly embracing open innovation, an approach to solving problems in creative and unexpected ways by collaborating with customers, partners, and employees.
The Fleet Club is a network of digital leaders who regularly connect to talk about business, technology, and innovation. It’s a place for dialog and sharing where members learn from each other and discover new opportunities.
In the latest Fleet Club session, Olivier Laborde, innovation and digital transformation leader at Natixis Assurances and author of Innovate or Disappear, defined the concept of open innovation, laid out its inherent challenges, and gave an overview of its many benefits.
The two pillars of problem solving
Open innovation speaks to the capacity of organizations to involve the collective intelligence of a wide range of problem solvers—inside and outside the organization—into its innovation process.
“Open innovation is built upon two pillars,” says Laborde. “Ecosystem and process.” To pursue a policy of open innovation, a company needs to expand its ecosystem by forging partnerships with solution creators such as:
- Startups and incubators
- Digital factories
- Venture capitalists
Finding the right partners is only half the challenge. Refining a process to mine successful solutions from those partnerships can be the thornier part of the equation. Many organizations harbor a knee jerk reluctance to accept outside innovations. Not-invented-here syndrome can prejudice teams proud of their own innovation capabilities against solutions developed outside of their sphere.
Pride and jealousy are not the only impediments to open innovation. Sometimes the cutthroat realities of the marketplace can make companies reluctant to blunt a competitive advantage or dilute an intellectual property through mutual cooperation. Not to mention that collaboration between organizations is often a clumsy affair. The gains made from jointly developing solutions can easily be lost through the unavoidable inefficiencies of a two-headed innovation process.
Innovation is worth the risks
But the challenges and risks companies take on in pursuit a policy of open innovation can bear a wealth of benefits:
- Increased speed in developing solutions
- Increased efficiency in generating innovation
- Increased knowledge of outside business and technology spheres
- Decreased labor costs
- Enhanced reputation as an innovator