For organisations seeking to uncover new and innovative products and services, it’s no longer enough to look inwards. Today, more companies than ever are using open innovation strategies to boost their rate of success. ‘Open innovation’ (OI) is about looking outside one’s organisation to solve challenges, respond to disruptive technologies and increase speed to market. It’s about collaborating with industry experts, budding startups and customers to take advantage of emerging technologies or advance existing products and services. Innovation is industry agnostic and can be achieved by all kinds of organisations.
Here are some successful examples of open innovation:
Organisations that set up ‘innovation outposts’ are able to monitor companies and competitors for new technologies, emerging threats and potential tools for disruption. The French multinational insurance firm, AXA, has created ‘AXA Labs,’ two dedicated innovation outposts based in Shanghai and San Francisco. These outposts enable AXA to detect innovation at its source and identify talented entrepreneurs, emerging trends, and new customer needs. The AXA Labs teams in Shanghai and Silicon Valley scout innovations in their respective regions, to breed partnerships with the most promising startups or replicate the best-performing models. The Labs work closely with startups at every stage, to develop and accelerate disruptive business models.
World Wide Fund for Nature
With over 5 millions supporters and activities in over 100 countries, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is one of the largest environmental organisations in the world. WWF Switzerland looked to engage supporters, members, organisations and individuals across the globe to collaboratively share and develop ideas and solutions. The WWF launched a series of Open Innovation challenges around topics such as energy efficiency, milk production and biodiversity. The winning ideas solved environmental issues such as wasp reduction and better monitoring of lizards.
”At the moment the only way (supporters) can get involved is in the role of a donor…crowdsourcing adds a new element to that, where people can take on a large number of different roles, but everybody can do what they’re best at. I think this is a form that gives NGOs the chance to really tap into the potential of their supporters and use it in much more effective ways."
-Holger Hoffmann-Riem, Head of Innovation, WWF Switzerland.
Microsoft, IBM, Intel
Research from Bank of America Merrill Lynch suggests that age-related expenditure accounts for 40 percent of government spending in developed markets. With a rapidly ageing population, business as usual is therefore no longer an option. This has caused Innovation Leads from IBM, Intel, Microsoft and a number of other major corporations to join forces with the European Space Agency, European Commission and representatives from various UK Government Departments to explore ‘’digitally empowered neighbourhoods.’ This Think Tank will bring together leaders of industry and government to delve into what the ‘Cognitive Home’ of the future will look like. The aim is to free up hospital beds and institutional care facilities, thereby reducing NHS and social care bills.
DHL, the world’s leading international express shipping provider, was the first in its industry to launch an open innovation competition. The competition focused on “City Logistics,” the process whereby private companies optimise logistics and transport activities in urban areas while considering the traffic environment, the traffic congestion and energy consumption within the framework of a market economy. The contest invited businesses, academics, politicians, public authorities and citizens to share ideas and recommendations for the implementation of sustainable logistics solutions in populated, urban areas.
“DHL knows that the logistics industry plays a significant role and we want to broaden our approach to City Logistics by also inviting people outside the company to contribute their perspective. With the views of others we can better identify the challenges and generate ideas for new logistics solutions. We are asking participants to really think outside of the box.”
Steffen Frankenberg, Vice President of DHL Solutions and Innovations (DSI) division,
Data.gov is an openly available source of government data that is accessible for the purpose of creating impact in the form of “cost savings, efficiency, fuel for business, improved civic services, informed policy, performance planning, research and scientific discoveries, transparency and accountability, and increased public participation in the democratic dialogue.” The website provides data, tools, and resources to conduct research, develop web and mobile applications, design data visualizations, and more. The data has since been used by organisations and individuals across a range of industries, for myriad purposes, some examples of which include:
Organisations that partake in corporate venturing by investing in external projects and startups are at the bleeding edge of innovation. By keeping one eye on the mothership while scouting the environment, organisations are able to detect emerging threats and integrate potential tools for disruption to stay ahead of the competition.
To kickstart open innovation in your organisation:
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This guide provides an overview of the five key stages of design thinking, from empathy through to test. Find out how to apply the approach and start innovating at your organisation.