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Using Open-Innovation to Drive your Business Strategy

“Crowd-sourcing” has become a buzzword over the past few years because of the success of entrepreneurial online offerings such as the crowd-sourced t-shirt designs of Spreadshirt, the customer-designed shoes of Australian success story, Shoes of Prey, and crowd-funded publishers like Unbound.

In reality, soliciting creative contributions from outside an organisation is nothing new. Companies have employed ‘crowd-sourcing’ techniques to seek ideas via customer surveys, employee suggestions and design competitions.

However, the momentum around crowd-sourcing may well be justified for an entirely different reason: developments in the innovation sector have improved and systemised the way companies can use crowd-sourcing to drive their innovation agenda. With support from “Open-Innovation” (OI) platforms companies can source new products, technology, IP and fresh ideas faster than their R&D and strategy teams can develop them in-house. Open-Innovation is not necessarily outsourcing of these creative responsibilities; it’s about collaborating and partnering with external experts for more diverse inputs and better outcomes.

OI is being fuelled by the emergence of a myriad of platforms and products aimed at different audiences. The “openness” varies from platform to platform, and organization to organization.

Online innovation platforms, such as Bright Ideas and Iris Interactive, use project-based approaches to support the entire lifecycle of an idea from collection to execution, whilst Australian-based Innovation Firebug by Flamethrower is looking to operate in “a true innovation marketplace whereby organisations can see a pipeline of innovation that solves problems they don’t (yet) know they have,” according to Founder and CEO, Amy-Renee Hovorka.

The trend is towards an open marketplace for ideas and solutions where the IP of the inventors is protected, giving them incentive to collaborate with customers and companies (called “adopters”) to ensure their products and services are fit for purpose. Inventors benefit by leveraging the commercialisation engines of large corporates, whilst companies benefit with faster speed to market and creative pool of opportunities.