Open innovation is a fairly new way of thinking about how people can work collaboratively together to increase their chances of success. The concept is based on the idea that working collaboratively brings new ideas to the table that might not have been generated if just a few people were thinking about it alone and were getting caught up in “Group Think”. As Edward Abbey points out in Desert Solitaire:
“Where all think alike there is little danger of innovation.”
Introducing a diverse range of ideas to a problem can help to solve it more easily by coming up with approaches that are in themselves more diverse. It breaks down group think by introducing new ways of looking at difficult problems.
The internet has made it easier for people from all walks of life and different backgrounds to capture such ideas and share them. There are many companies embracing the idea of open innovation through gathering these ideas and putting them to good use, and a site has been created to capture some of the top names that are achieving this. In Part One of this series, we looked at efforts made by Starbucks, Riversimple, Moodle, Ning and CureTogether. In this part we will examine five more ground breaking open innovators.
A really interesting place to start is with Innoget. Innoget’s tag line is “the global innovation marketplace”, and this helps to describe what they do very accurately. There are technology offers and requests on the website. By putting these two together, innovative solutions can be created. With innovation requests, people or companies post what they are looking for specifically in terms of a technology innovation, and innovators can respond to such requests. Conversely, those that offer innovation are able to find businesses that want to take on their approach, giving them access to the market that they may not have otherwise had.Screenshot of website Basecamp
Sticking with technology, another collaborative innovator is Dell. Dell has introduced IdeaStorm, with a view to getting ideas from people and bringing them into fruition. At the time of writing, IdeaStorm had 21,010 ideas submitted to date, with more than 540 of these actually implemented in reality. Implemented ideas are featured on the home page, and examples include an idea for biodegradable packing material and a touchscreen desktop. People are able to get involved by voting for the best ideas that can be found on the website.
Another innovator is the company of Basecamp, which has developed itself into one of the most important project management tools in the world within a ten year time frame. Basecamp was born out of the company that produced it having a need to better manage projects. The tool provides vastly increased collaborative working by helping projects to be more effectively managed. It is estimated that 15,000,000 people worldwide have worked on a project that used Basecamp and that many companies open an account each week. Marketing was, unusually, mostly achieved through word of mouth which makes it even more impressive that this company has done so well.
Operating in a different area entirely, Floss Manuals is a company that publishes free manuals for software on its website. A quick look at the website will show you that you can find manuals that offer you information on areas as diverse as how to use Firefox, through to Independent Video Hosting, CRM Systems, WordPress, and lots more besides. If you are looking for information about how to use a software system of any type of system, this may be an excellent place to start for great information.
For bookworms, even better than sharing of software manuals is the sharing of information about books. LibraryThing is yet another company nominated by the Open Innovation website, with a community of 1,700,000 book lovers, allowing those people to be able to connect with people who like to read similar kinds of material. Users are able to enter up to 200 books for free or for a small fee, as many as they like for a year, or even for a lifetime. This is an excellent online resource for cataloguing books and accessing this catalogue at any time. It has been dubbed as the “Facebook for books”, and users are even able to get recommendations of other books that they might like based on their own catalogue.
Paula Newton is a business writer, editor and management consultant with extensive experience writing and consulting for both start-ups and long established companies. She has ten years management and leadership experience gained at BSkyB in London and Viva Travel Guides in Quito, Ecuador, giving her a depth of insight into innovation in international business. With an MBA from the University of Hull and many years of experience running her own business consultancy, Paula’s background allows her to connect with a diverse range of clients, including cutting edge technology and web-based start-ups but also multinationals in need of assistance. Paula has played a defining role in shaping organizational strategy for a wide range of different organizations, including for-profit, NGOs and charities. Paula has also served on the Board of Directors for the South American Explorers Club in Quito, Ecuador.