Democratized Innovation

The need for involving larger numbers of stakeholders in innovation fostering activities has become abundantly clear in recent years as organisations have recognized the value of highly diversified input.

This concept of ‘democratized innovation’, where individuals from all across an organisation’s power (decision making) spectrum, and even those outside, can come to together to help shape future innovations, has many benefits over traditional controlled innovation focused activities.

In this post, we will be focusing on two main methodologies of democratic innovation fostering: ‘Internal Innovation Crowdsourcing’ and ‘Open Innovation’.

i) Internal Innovation Crowdsourcing

Traditionally, the term crowdsourcing has been referred to as the sourcing of knowledge, finance or other assets from a large crowd of individuals, mostly commonly from the general public. Platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo have enabled smaller, less established teams to raise funds and validate their innovations with minimal prior interaction with institutional bodies. However, this term also holds context for lager organisations. By harnessing the power of crowdsourcing and focusing inwards, organisations are capable of extracting valuable ideas and insights from their entire employee base, gaining a greater level of understanding of a potential innovation and the context it exists in. Some examples of internal innovation crowdsourcing in practice are i) the running of internal hackathon style events, where employees are invited to participate in 24–72 hour long events in centralised locations, forming teams and working outside the rules of normal operations to build and pitch prototype concepts for potential new innovations, and ii) the use of idea-challenge software, where specific organizational challenges are posted, on a digital portal, which any employee can attempt to solve regardless of their position in the company.

While these methods have been successful utilized by companies to drive innovation fostering efforts, there are several shortcomings in the formats. Hackathons require employees to give up long periods of time, outside of normal working hours, to take part, increasing barriers to entry. Furthermore, because of the nature of these events, where physical presence is required to participate, the potential value which could be generated by individuals from other locations (particularly notable in the case of multinational or cross-regional organizations) is effectively lost. In the case of traditional idea-challenge software, barriers to entry also remain high as individuals are tasked with solving entire problems by themselves and often require long solution proposal forms to be filled out, requiring a significant time investment. Furthermore, perspective and insight can be limited due to the lack of collaborative problem solving.

However, innovation sandbox platforms (the features of which I discussed previously) attempt to solve many of the problems listed above and are beginning to unlock the full value surrounding internal innovation crowdsourcing.

ii) Open Innovation

Open Innovation is a paradigm which suggests that organisations can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and explore external paths to market as well as internal ones. In effect, it is the act of co-creating with external stakeholders (customers, community and partners) to help facilitate innovation fostering activities. There are several practices which fall under ‘Open Innovation’ which include but are not limited to:

•Crowdsourcing ideas from the public via idea competitions
•Working with startups who can provide novel and innovative technologies
•Leveraging research through collaborative efforts with academic institutions
•Involving the customer in the frontend side of the innovation cycle

There are several strategic advantages to such activities including research cost reduction, risk reduction due to pre-validation with the customer, increased innovation-market fit, strengthened customer relations, PR benefits and community engagement, and the potential for access to readily available customers with whom pilot programs can be run.

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Until next time,