One of the great parts of being based in San Francisco is that we get an up close (and almost unfair) view of the breakthrough technologies that are transforming the world around us. And, we get to use these breakthroughs in innovations we create for our clients. In this role, we play advisor, connector and creator in our clients’ open innovation initiatives. Based on our experience, here are five ingredients for successful open innovation initiatives.
Without empathy for users, you can’t have meaningful innovation. When evaluating ideas and technologies, one must always keep the end user in mind. What problem does it solve for the user? How does it fit with current behavior? Why would they love it?
2. Focus, but not too much
The most successful open innovation programs start or quickly arrive at a defined focus. What is the goal? What is the problem that we are trying to solve? What is the best open approach for it? However, some of the best innovations will come from areas adjacent to the focus area, so stay flexible.
3. Structure & process
Arguably the most challenging part of any innovation initiative is developing appropriate structure and process. This changes dramatically depending on approach (partnerships, crowdsourcing, API) and directly affects outcomes. LEGO would not be successful without its evaluation structure and technology infrastructure (see my previous blog post on OI). Think about how you’ll evaluate every aspect of your OI program.
4. C-level sponsorship
Having senior level sponsorship or involvement in open innovation programs helps drive decision-making, organizational acceptance and stakeholder buy in. It also helps a whole lot when dealing with corporate counsel, which is hugely influential in these programs.
Impatience is the one consistent characteristic across every organization we meet and open innovation programs are subject to it. Lots of people will say innovation takes time, but the process by which one gets there can actually be quite fast. We counsel clients to organize their OI initiatives around sprint methodology. Not only does it create accountability and a sense of urgency for all parties involved, but it also helps focus everyone on the best opportunities with the goal of gaining outside feedback quickly.
Jeremy Gilman, Strategy Director & Managing Director, San Francisco