I chaired an open innovation session at the British Library this week and we heard a lively exchange of views and some informative presentations from Orange, Quantum Innovation, P&G and Unilever. Nice to see the latter two competitors sharing the stage.
We conducted a mini-crowd sourcing exercise to find the most common barriers and create some new solutions. Here are the findings for the top three most interesting questions.
How do you fight the corporate innovation antibodies?
2. Through having a compelling business proposition - particularly if it is related to a need and therefore has 'commercial legs' - i.e: Airmiles was a response to the fact that most airlines had spare capacity and wanted to fill the planes without losing on revenues through discounting. Part of such a proposition is maintaining a consumer focus - not just win- win, but win-win-win (with the last win being the win of the consumer).
3. Though ‘vaccinations’ - use the people in the boundaries between the big and small organisation to build a culture that enables collaboration. Maybe each can spend time in each other teams, for example. This will promote a culture where people are empowered to say 'yes'.
How do we create an Empathy Engine that encourages trust and reduces fear?
1. By enabling shared knowledge - small companies often do not understand how large ones operate and where in their operational teams innovation sits. Encourage events or programmes where large and small companies can understand more about each other’s structures and constraints.
2. By creating a marketplace where people can collaborate safely - i.e: a place where the ideas can be peer-approved. This means effective tools like collaborative platforms and design challenges where large organisations invite partners to find a solution and offer some funding or a concrete business model.
3. Through intermediaries - an honest broker in the middle that understand the big boys and is also trusted by the small companies.
4. By investing in the future through younger communities of schools and undergraduate students in a culture of collaboration.
How can we make sure that there is a win/win right from the outset?
1. By carrying out 'due diligence' - this is essential if risks and rewards are going to be shared. Big companies or intermediaries can mentor the smaller ones through this process, as SMEs often lack full legal teams that can advise them.
2. By finding the right point of contact in the big organisation - the person who really is the champion of collaboration and open innovation.
3. By not exclusively relying on competitions, but rather collaborative programmes that are well structured and have clear outcomes for all involved.
4. By agreeing some sort of standardisation to how you bring an idea to market and creating communities of interest from which ideas have a better chance of being taken up..
We're increasingly thinking the key to a successful business collaboration is to avoid arm-wrestling over ownership, but focus on how you’re both going to profit.
Let us know if you think there are angles that the British Library crowd missed. As ever it will be a pleasure to hear from you.
by David Simoes-Brown