Closed research and development has been the publicly accepted paradigm within the practice of business innovation for some time now. Elite teams of scientists and researchers created the next big product or business model behind closed doors and shared it with the public in a dramatic reveal. Chesbrough (the thought leader on open innovation) says that this old model has become obsolete for a few different reasons:
- “The increased mobility of skilled workers
- Expansion of venture capital
- External options for unused technologies
- Increased availability of highly-capable outsourcing partners”
But because open innovation signals such a huge shift for companies looking to leverage its power, it asks innovation leaders to develop a new set of skills, as well.
Instead of Idea Generation, it’s about Idea Stewardship. In A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing, Steven Goers says that that mindset needs to change from research & development teams who are focused on saying that they generated an idea to teams that can say an idea was “proudly found elsewhere.” But that doesn’t mean our creative types aren’t necessary any more, it just means that their role has shifted to guiding, improving, and delivering upon an idea that they find. They are now the champions or stewards of great ideas, they no longer need to create ideas in a vacuum.
Instead of Launching, it’s about Communicating. The old method of development was a one-way conversation. R&D teams would conduct a great deal of research behind closed doors and then present a new product to the market and hope that it’s what people were looking for. The only way the consumer was able to join the conversation was to express their opinion through their spending dollars. Nowadays, it is possible to join the conversation multi-directionally and the brands that are engaging with their crowds are doing better. Innovators need to know how to bring that crowd in, draw them out, keep them engaged, and celebrate their success.
But what are the benefits of crowdsourcing innovation? Well, in addition to find better ideas at a lower cost, the risks associated with launching new programs are reduced, because the ideas and products have been pre-vetted and improved by the crowd. There’s also the chance for potential viral marketing, since building the product also builds the audience.
There are lots of people who are already doing this. The Cerebral Palsy Alliance asked a global audience to share ideas that would improve the lives of those living with cerebral palsy and then they built the one of the first solar-powered wheelchairs. Scentsy asked all of its employees what their next new product should be and it became the top-selling product of all time! The Department of Energy used crowdsourcing to fund five new solar start-ups that are going to make solar cost competitive by 2020.
To learn more about open innovation and crowdsourcing, download the Open Innovation Guide. Who do you know that’s engaging the crowd successfully to create positive change?
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