Getting Ideas From Outside Your Organisation

The population of the world is just north of 7 billion and there are maybe only a few hundred to a few thousand people working in your organization. So while I have talked about getting all the members of your organization involved in innovation ( ;, how do we get companies to tap into the huge resource of people outside the organization too? For as Poetz and colleagues (2014) noted in HBR,

“It’s a strange thought, but the solution to your business’s innovation problem may be walking around in the head of someone who applies theatrical makeup for a living.”

We have seen some examples where brands have tried to incorporate ideas from customers. For example, Walkers crisps, in 2008, ( got customers to help them develop new flavours. This is not only great for accessing ideas from outside the organization but also a great way to increase brand loyalty and a great PR tool. While not every firm may want to do exactly this or may not be in an industry where this is possible, there are still many ways for firms to tap into the ideas of the outside world. Here are some ideas:

Idea 1: Making connections with the local startup ecosystem.

The local startup ecosystem is somewhere that people in your firm will be exposed to new technologies and ideas that may spark ideas for the organization. There may be intellectual benefits of this connection or something more practical like specific ideas or even the possibility of the firm making investments in startups.

Idea 2: Setting up an External Innovation Advisory Board

An innovation advisory board will help bring new ideas into the organization and provide for the firm access to experts in the field. The board should consist of 4 or 5 diverse members who can help the firm see things from a different perspective.

Idea 3: Getting employees out of the organization and out of the industry

Often times employees will only attend conferences and meetings in their chosen industry, however, since many of the best ideas come from out with an organization and an industry it is important to get some key employees to go to conferences outside their professional area of interest.

Idea 4: Dissemination of Ideas in the Organization

It is key to ensure that the learning and insights that employees get from attending conferences and external events is disseminated both within their work groups and also within the organization as whole. As such, there should be a forum whereby post-attendance at conference/meeting the participants can share the ideas with the rest of the people in the organization. Specific time should be set aside, perhaps as a brown bag monthly lunch series, for employees to share their insights. In addition these presentations should be filmed and placed on the intranet so that other employees not able to attend the meetings are able to view the presentation at their own convenience.

Idea 5: Get Connected to the University Networks / Technology Transfer Offices

Wherever your company is in the world, there is almost certainly strong technical universities with strong engineering faculties and business schools. As such, by connecting with these universities and TTOs, your firm will get access to the cutting edge research being done in these universities and at the same time get connected to professors and talented students.

These are just some ideas which I will elaborate upon in the following weeks.

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