Access and Feeds

Enterprise Social: Fostering Open Innovation with Collaborative Technology

By Dick Weisinger

“There are probably ideas worth three or four million dollars sitting in the company but their voices are not being heard.  But with a social media innovation system, you can find the ideas and develop them so that you can grow your business.”  That’s a key observation of an AIIM report authored by Andrew McAfee, called “Fostering Innovation”.  This kind of openness towards listening and learning from voices both inside and outside the organization is being called “Open Innovation”.  McAfee’s definition of Open Innovation is “technology that supports the involvement of people (either inside or outside the company) in innovation processes.”

The term “Open Innovation” actually dates back to the 60’s, and over the last decade has been promoted by Henry Chesbrough, a professor and executive director at the Center for Open Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley.  Chesbrough’s definition of Open Innovation centers more on companies needing to seek out and adopt ideas that originate not only from within an organization, but also from those outside the organization.

McAfee surveyed top organizations as part of the AIIM report.  His team found that roughly a quarter of organization already say that they are using some form of Open Innovation (OI).  Of those organizations using Open Innovation, nearly half say that the results of their OI efforts have resulted in dramatic improvements to their internal processes, and 34 percent said that application of OI dramatically resulted in improvements in their external interactions.

The AIIM report found that while organizations often have avenues to collect ideas for improvement, they seldom allow participants a way to comment or vote on the usefulness of these ideas.  The report suggests that more collaborative discussions around submitted ideas could identify which ideas have the most merit and ultimately improve the effectiveness with which ideas can be realized.

The report also found that while unstructured solicitation of general ideas for improvement can yield interesting ideas, typically more and better-quality ideas are generated with a more directed solicitation that is framed around how to solve or improve a specific problem or issue.  Examples of the directed solicitation of ideas might be “How can a product be improved” or how can a specific process be improved or made more efficient.

Open Innovation in organizations is an area where collaborative and social technology tools are now beginning to be productively applied.

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