The Network Builder tool helps to design relevant and bespoke networks that support successful open innovation. In order to mobilise the outside world to innovate with us we need a map of where to seek help and how the innovation ecosystem is connected up.
This tool is designed to help us create, recruit and maintain our open innovation network. We use the tool as a central process and document for use by members of the whole team that will run the challenge and commercialise its outcome. Establishing and galvanising a good network could take up to a year so we need to allow time for this. Designing our network can be efficiently accomplished using two workshops – the first to agree on targets and the second to finalise, with some time in between for research.
1. Give our network a name relevant to your need
Give the network a name based on the problem or opportunity that we are trying to address. This is to differentiate it from other networks we have or will develop in the future.
2. Visualise our current network
Write the names in the inner circles on the Network Builder map.
Map out the most interesting or influential people, suppliers or nodes (related networks) that we know of and write their names in the core innovation network circles together with an adjective that describes them or their expertise. We are aiming for diverse backgrounds and a mixture of close and distant contacts, creating separate maps for each network we need (e.g. one for packaging, one for product ingredients).
3. Add a new network
Write new names in the outer circles on the Network Builder map.
We find new potential partners by using search engines or advanced search features on social media like LinkedIn. We can also use commercial services and existing databases to help find experts, innovators or new potential partners (e.g. 100%Open Venture Radar, inno360, ninesigma, Yet2, Innocentive).
4. What sectors/industries/geographies are relevant to our need?
We cast the net wide at this stage and record those sectors that are directly or indirectly relevant. We include entrepreneurs, academics, our existing supply chain and industry bodies or associations. Are there any sectors or organisations that are dead ends from the point of view of technology, legal restrictions or other issues?
5. Write any keywords that are relevant to your search
Keywords will often form the basis for a company search so we write them on the form. We are aiming for a list that is not too wide or we get too many irrelevant results. A list that is too narrow will fail to find tangential or radical solution providers. Include keywords in the appropriate languages of your target geographies.
6. Decide on how we will engage our network
Networks without communications are just email lists. What is the communications plan and who will actively manage our network?
Consider using a Crowdsourcing Platform to engage your network to find ideas, insights or business propositions.
Use Challenge Designer to design challenges that will engage and reward your network.
Use Open Innovation Models to explore different types of business partnerships to offer members of your network.