I’ve just finished the book Trust Agents by Chris Brogan which is definitely worth a read if you want a practical tips on building your own social capital and networks. I’m not going to go into the content in detail here but it did have one lovely quote which prompted this post:
I’ve been struggling for a while to articulate why I think the shift towards networked organisations represents a fundamentally shift in doing business. The move towards openness is clearly a part of it – data, systems, decisions, spaces – there’s nowhere to hide any more, and nor should you even try (most of the time). But what this quote unlocked for me was the true reciprocal natural of relationships. This is obviously the fundamental promise of web 2.0 which captures the transition from 1-way to 2-way communication, which is clearly also one of the big drivers of open innovation. In other words, as the age old cliché says, you get out what you put in but nowhere is this more true than in open innovation.
The challenge that many large organisations find themselves in is that “Everyone knows of you, but no one really knows you”. Just sucking in great ideas from outside is a sure fire way to shoot yourself in the foot. And yet this is what unfortunately many corporate open innovation strategies are, almost inspite of themselves. Sharing information, and building other organisations capacity, is essential for successful open innovation. Companies like IBM are doing some interesting things in this space, such as with their Smarter planet programme, which I attended yesterday in Dublin.
All of the above prompted me to think about Trusted Agencies (i.e. organisations), as the logical next step on from Trusted Agents (i.e. people). In recent years and months we’ve seen a flourishing of what you might call innovation intermediaries or consultancies however by an large I would say most of them are locked into a traditional single client, fee for service, business model.
What I think of as real Trust Agencies are genuine brokers between organisations and institutions representing and promoting the needs on all sides – companies, customers, clients etc. And their business model is based more upon having a stake in the opportunities they generate or in co-developing them with others. The image above image is of 2 of 6 diagramatic representations of new open/co-creation business models developed by Sense Worldwide that I think capture the strategic challenge rather elegantly (all 6 + a white paper is available here).
I know this idea isn’t necessarily new per se. I just think the need is growing exponentially. Over the past few years we’ve done projects now with Proctor and Gamble, Shop Direct (who own Littlewoods), and are also just about to launch a project with Orange where we are testing our Trusted Agent model of corporate open innovation. Have a look at this little video which shows the process rather nicely.
As we move to a more fluid and distributed model of business, innovative organisations need to give as much as receive for the networked business models to thrive. And so I below the need for genuine honest brokers will be become more important. And they will live or die by their reputations – simple as that.
*Please note – we are in the process of setting up a company called 100% Open which will offer consultancy, training, and networks based upon our models of open innovation. More on that soon.