The Innovation Sandbox

The ‘Innovation Sandbox’ is a relatively new principle, attempting to combine the best of both internal crowdsourcing and open innovation, add further value for organisations, and avoid some of the pitfalls associated with applying those methods in isolation. Furthermore it borrows on philosophies and design principles seen in technologies like blockchain (such as distributed input and decision making), has a strong focus on transparency and mass-collaboration, and operates through extremely visual user experiences, carrying over some of the benefits seen in design thinking.

An Innovation Sandbox can be defined as ‘A digital environment and toolset which enables large groups of stakeholders to act autonomously and without hierarchy in the building of innovative concepts and solutions’. The main purpose of an innovation sandbox is to allow individuals to collaborate collectively in real time in the act of problem solving, opportunity identification and concept building without the communicative and logistical barriers which emerge in larger organisations, a result of structural considerations such as siloed departments, lack of access to relevant decision makers, and the ability for individuals lower down the power spectrum to have their voice hear. Social mechanics and high quality user interfaces (such as those seen on public social networking platforms i.e. Facebook and Twitter) are deployed to increase participation rates and ensure that stakeholders are sufficiently engaged with the collaborative efforts.

Some of the key components which can help facilitate social innovation fostering via these sandbox platforms include but are not limited to:

– Micro-contributions: Unlike with traditional idea-challenge software, innovation sandboxes introduce the concept of ‘micro-contributions’ allowing users to submit ideas at a scale they are comfortable with. Removing the need for users to solve entire challenges by themselves barriers to entry are lowered, increasing participation and engagement rates

– Idea Recycling: No idea exists in isolation. The value of a particular idea may not be in the original project or concept it was intended for. By introducing the concept of ‘idea recycling’ stakeholders can experiment with different combinations of ideas and solutions in different contexts, increasing the rate of potential successful innovations

– Autonomous Workflows: Innovation sandboxes are built to support the development of innovative concepts and solutions without the need for dedicated project managers or owners. Once a campaign has been set, with the help of backend algorithms users can develop concepts without constant interjection by managerial practices, decreasing developmental friction. This also decreases the resource cost needed to facilitate the frontend innovation processes

– Bottom up innovation: Innovation Sandboxes enable bottom-up innovation, that is, the ability for concepts and solutions to form at level in the organisation. This provides senior decision makers with a holistic survey of innovative capabilities and knowledge across the company

– Internal and External: Innovation Sandboxes can be deployed both internally and externally, either through a project-by-project basis or as a permanently linked ecosystem. An example of this could be an organisation opening up one particular campaign to the crowd, or having an on-going real-time collaborative link with a partner organisation

As with any well design frontend innovation system, the best innovation sandboxes are structured to feed the best concepts and solutions into the BEI side of the innovation cycle with minimum friction.

To find out more about innovation sandboxes feel free to contact me at toby.farren@playtank.net

Until next time,

Toby!