Outside innovation is a systematic process for sourcing, evaluating, and driving ideas through to funding and measuring success but it starts with understanding your internal innovation process.
Innovation is an important topic for most companies, it is the essential source of new products, new markets, and even new business models. Outside innovation has been a topic that many companies have been exploring involving customers and partners in the innovation process and holds the promise of enormous returns for small investments. P&G has been a leader in open innovation and sources over 33% of it’s products from outside parties like educational institutions, customer communities, and the social web. Outside Innovation though is not easy and can only be a sustainable success when it works in concert with internal business processes and internal stakeholders.
Successful outside innovation then relies upon understanding your internal innovation process and ecosystem and then creating appropriate interfaces to outside parties. Understanding internal innovation itself can be a challenge as it is often a tacit process and a shared understanding amongst specific teams so it is useful to have a framework to use as a starting point. In this case the generic innovation process serves as a good starting point.
The generic innovation process:
- Fuzzy Front End
- Opportunity identification
- Problem Definition
- immersion in the problem and incubation
- Idea generation and exploring options
- prototyping solutions
- testing, measurement and iteration
When thinking about involving outside parties in these stages it is important to understand each require different kinds of thinking, behaviour, motivation and measures of success. When externalising this process through outside innovation participants are not under direct control and require intrinsic motivation to participate meaningfully in each stage. Companies that approach open innovation with a customer free-for-all are often flooded with unstructured ideas and feedback with weak ties to business goals. The goal of the outside innovation process is to provide a systematic way to help channel and motivate participation appropriately to support the goals of each stage of the process.
The open innovation process is continually iterative and helps identify successful participation at each stage by identifying particular individuals who are intrinsically motivated by specific stages of the process. This provides a framework for inviting users that enjoy and are particularly suited to each kind of challenge or activity. This combined with appropriate internal participation will help create a direct connection between internal innovators work, business goals and external activity.
The starting point for formulating an open innovation process in your own organisation is identifying the innovation leaders that already exist and identify your own internal innovation processes. This will form the foundation for understanding the existing internal innovation process which is the first step in being able to integrate outside innovation.