Organising for the social marketplace of ideas aka Open Innovation
February 20, 2012 A current area of focus for The Work Foundation is how the UK develops a strategy for open innovation. They are building a new employer-led research programme to examine the effectiveness of innovation ecosystems within organisations. One key question which forms the basis of this new research is what strategies organisations need to adopt to successfully manage people in an open innovation era and from this, whether social technologies help, or hinder? There are other questions but I will be focusing especially on the latter part of this question (related to social technologies) and use this blog post, leading up to a related workshop that I’m attending, to gather my thoughts and some references and ideally get some feedback from you dear reader :) A little context Open innovation, according to Henry Chesbrough who originated the concept, has two facets. One is the “outside in” aspect, where external ideas and technologies are brought into the firm’s own innovation process. This is the most commonly recognised feature of open innovation. The other, less commonly recognized aspect is the “inside out” part, where un- and under-utilized ideas and technologies in the firm are allowed to go outside to be incorporated into others’ innovation processes.
I’m sure a definition was not required for most of you but I thought this distinction was rather important. This article by him (Everything You Need to Know About Open Innovation) provides a lot more detail if interested. Now onto the social side. Many views are still broadly that it is “employees’ use of social media as either time-wasting, or a threat to carefully-crafted marketing messages” (this is from a definition in a working document outlining the scope of The Work Foundation research). There often appears little distinction between social media as the output of purposeful and open collaboration between organisation stakeholders (employees, customers, partners or suppliers) based on social technologies which have been put to specific business use and the loose set of activities on the public social networks (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn to name just a few). Blurring occurs between business and personal use, between open and closed networks, between access points (mobile, web, apps, etc.). None of these distinctions are absolute, borders are porous and roles interchangeable. But the purposes of this post and exercise is not to resolve all this. The point of my line of enquiry I think social technologies in the context of business use are critical in facilitating open innovation. Essentially I’d like to start creating a framework for their use – a kind of open innovation social technology stack. What I find missing in most open innovation discussions is the role of specific technologies, especially social. Having said that, it is pretty much implicit in the definition for this new piece of research into open innovation: “technology to support the involvement of people (either inside or outside the company) in innovation processes” – registration required. The list below is far from exhaustive and I’d love your input in a comment (or please respond to the survey also mentioned at the end) to see whether this resonates before exploring further. I’ve bundled the technologies into four broad areas – see also diagram
1. The role of social idea management and crowdsourcing technologies This is the obvious perhaps most important component – the vertical social technology most closely associated with innovation – and the main reason for the title of this blog post. A new breed of social technologies to facilitate innovation are starting to be used by organisations. Idea management systems that systematically manage the innovation pipeline through collaboration on people’s ideas as well as review and implementation of them (I did a whole study on this – download summary report bottom of page here). These are most often applied internally. Then there are those, often the same technology products, used externally to crowdsource ideas from users or customers. Ideas play a crucial role in open innovation and indeed are a core part of Chesbrough’s definition. There are now incredible technologies with key social features to manage this effectively (they are also the thin end of the social business wedge in my view). Great examples of products and use abound (OpenIdeo, Dell’s IdeaStorm, Ecomagination to name just a few). 2. The role of generic social technologies to support standard innovation technologies and practice Organisations using technologies to manage various innovation processes is not new, from the basic spreadsheet (yes it still happens) to the very advanced product lifecycle management platforms (where admittedly innovation is only a part and there exists a lot of ambiguity). There are also various creativity tools and then all the processes that accompany innovation where standard tools are used. Some are choosing to supplement this all with generic social technologies like wikis, blogs, activity streams etc. which can work very effectively as an
overlay to standard tools but ultimately could cause integration problems. 3. The role of social data, search and analytics technologies This is a horizontal technology component that could work across verticals and cover the open social web and internal networks. The fact is that there is an explosion of social data that is set to increase but there is an equivalent explosion of tools that allow for this data to be mined, analysed and intelligence derived. I wonder if this area is especially relevant in the case of open innovation activities where different stakeholders are engaging in an open, collaborative way and deriving meaning from all of these interactions becomes key to out-innovate competitors. Whether you are dealing with open innovation in a systematic way using the tools mentioned above or not, there are separate social conversations and activities going on that you should be aware of and trying to figure out the meaning and bearing they have on your innovation efforts. See slides 39-54 of this deck from Dion Hinchcliffe who elaborates on the social data explosion and its impact. 4. The role of social talent and performance management technologies Given that talent management is a key part of the workshop and talent management has gone social, I thought this was a vertical technology stack worth exploring. Ultimately, if open innovation is a key priority for a company then it strikes me that talent and performance should be managed for it somehow. I’m just not sure how well this could or should be integrated with innovation management systems.
For instance, performance management (and rewards) could be handled in the idea management side through gaming mechanics and leaderboards determining employees effective contribution to innovation or this could be passed onto talent and performance management systems to be handled at annual review time. The latter might make open innovation more holistic. The article linked to provides some good examples in this area.
A current area of focus for The Work Foundation is how the UK develops a strategy for open innovation. They are building a new employer-led research programme to examine the effectiveness of innovation ecosystems within organisations.
Social technologies in the context of business use are critical in facilitating open innovation. These technologies are bundled into four broad areas:
1. The role of social idea management and crowdsourcing technologies
2. The role of generic social technologies to support standard innovation technologies and practice
3. The role of social data, search and analytics technologies
4. The role of social talent and performance management technologies