It’s clear that company innovation techniques are changing fast but how do we open innovation specialists react? If open is the’ new normal’ is our mission complete? It has been fascinating to watch how corporate culture and practices have opened up since we started on this open innovation journey 8 years ago. Does this mean we at 100%Open are out of a job if everyone is practicing open innovation already?
Our clients are increasingly engaging with us because we’re a good match for their values, rather than hoping that some of our openness would somehow rub off on their people. Organisations such as InterContinental Hotels Group, Ford and Innovate UK are becoming more open and more connected and hired us to help. So 100%Open fits their bill, and we can quickly add value without too many ‘corporate antibodies’ getting in the way. The question for us to ponder is whether such companies will grow their capabilities to the extent that they can manage without our expertise. We hope so! This may seem surprising, but our vision has always been for a more open business culture and a better, more connected world. As champions of open innovation, we believe that everyone should have the right tools, networks and mindset to collaborate effectively. So if we’re talking a global shift in culture, naturally it can’t all go through us. And we’re delighted about this.
Our first few years of operation did have a pioneering feel to them. We spent as much time explaining the principles of open innovation as we did running programmes. About 3 years ago this shifted to a second phase in which clients were coming to us with clear briefs and convincing rationales for being more open. We have found ourselves therefore being more concerned with making a success of open innovation projects and hitting more informed client expectations. Having a clear strategy is one thing but having the culture and mindset to carry it out is another. This is why we have been increasingly doing some quite unexpected work in helping organisations develop the skills and capacities that they need in order to be open. For example, we’ve helped over 5,000 people discover their Collaboration Style and evaluated the readiness for open innovation of over 1,000 organisations. Recently we have been asked to train R&D scientists for Dstl, help skill up entrepreneurs for NEF and help InterContinental Hotels Group colleagues and hotel owners to collaboratively design new services to delight their guests.
So where is all this going? Lately something new is happening – I think as an unexpected consequence of business culture opening up like a flower. This bloom is the increasing focus on intrapreneurship where company employees are asked to innovate in addition to their day job. This has moved on from the famous ‘Google Fridays’ approach to a more sophisticated competition-based approach that has a lot in common with open innovation programmes. This is a great idea and very engaging, but it’s not automatically easy for employees to innovate ‘by the side of their desks’. We recently helped UBS run such an internal competition that followed on from an external open innovation programme called The Future of Finance. So, in this case, there was a direct evolution from open innovation to intrapreneurship, and you might say that the one prepared the ground for the other.
So the days of open innovation as a specialist methodology to solve specific hard problems by technology search may indeed be coming to an end. It is the end of open innovation as we know it. Organisations are having to work harder to attract and retain talent, especially Millennials, and those that are creating an open, flat and entrepreneurial culture (in the centre of their desks!) will win the best people. The good news for the industry is that open innovation is evolving to a more diverse and mainstream set of cultural attributes and business practices. So if we continue to evolve we’ll flourish too.