Lesson 3: Don’t Create An Internal Innovation Process That Tries Too Hard to Be Inclusive
When several members of our team were starting out in their careers, the companies they worked for offered some form of internal suggestion box. Employees made suggestions for innovations or process improvements. Some of our employers rewarded successful ideas with either recognition or cash (a percentage of the savings from an improvement for example.)
A few decades ago, the classic suggestion box evolved into the popular “open innovation ecosystem.” Companies built webtools and structures counting on these ecosystems to supply the next big idea for growth. They sourced ideas from the outside (unsolicited or solicited) and internally from all functions and levels within their company.
We are frequently hired to either help build an internal innovation process or optimize one that isn’t delivering. Our clients often ask us about best practice in open innovation processes and want to mimic what they perceive as successful models from other companies.
We have found consistently that more minds don’t necessarily result in better ideas, but it does drive extra work and can set unrealistic expectations.
For an open ecosystem to function, there needs to be management of an intake process, evaluation process, legal/IP processes, and communication throughout—on top of the existing internal innovation processes. Successful innovations are inextricably linked to corporate strategy, and often the participants in a fully open innovation system don’t have the perspective or experience to understand the linkage.
However, we also have had clients who for internal objectives needed to make their innovation process more inclusive. We have helped them establish the proper processes and procedures as well as communications strategies to ensure a successful process.