This subject is particularly interesting to discuss as new web-based technologies are increasingly fueling the beginnings of what seems to be more distributed and collaborative approaches to design and creation processes. We seem to be living in the age of Wikipedias and innovation crowdsourcing. However, it’s still not clear to many companies how to organize a loosely connected community of contributors to design a new product or resolve a problem in an emergent way.
The use of web in innovation process is not new in the business world
The use of web in innovation process is not new in the business world: consumer goods and pharmaceutical companies such as Proctor & Gamble and Eli Lilly, as classic entrants, applied the concept to their innovation and product development process nearly a decade ago, and these models are now mainstream among many sectors such as consumer goods, high-tech and chemical products.
However, by taking a closer look at the experience of companies with web-enabled innovation, we realize that there are only few companies which are getting true financial value out of their initiatives and the real impact of many of such the initiatives has been minimal. Web-enabled open innovation, even though is widely recognized as an enabler for improving innovation performance is only practiced by few organizations (See Figure 1: Survey results). The success rate on the rest of the companies which were actually practicing web-enabled open innovation has also been rather low.
The success rate on the rest of the companies which were actually practicing web-enabled open innovation has also been rather low
Looking at the companies which have been successful in utilizing web-enabled open innovation, we realize that they do distinguish themselves in the way they approach the technology, though the full picture of what their best practices was not clear to us two years ago when we first started studying web-enabled innovation. This gap became a motivation for us to start a research initiative among several American and European universities to identify some of the lessons learned derived from the use of web for open innovation so far and the key factors differentiating best performers from the rest of the industry.
In addition to a global survey of more than 200 companies in 31 countries, we conducted numerous interviews and case studies in the companies which had adopted such practices to identify what was their degree of success and their experience with their open innovation initiatives.
While summarizing the result of our multi-year research in a short column series might not be possible, we’ll try to highlight some of our findings and lessons learned briefly in the current and upcoming post:
One of our early impressions which was later confirmed by our findings was that a probable reason for low success of web-enabled innovation is that many companies have taken the success story of the pioneering firms with open innovation as gospel and have jumped into this space with the assumption that same solution will work for them too. As the result, many initiatives have been launched for the sake of “going open innovation” rather than companies’ needs.
However, one key element which should be always kept in mind when formulating web open innovation strategy is that collaboration in virtual space has to be carefully crafted around three main areas in alignment with company’s needs:
In the next column we will try to provide you with real examples and some of our other lessons learned.
Till then, let us know what you think!
About Ehsan Ehsani
Ehsan Ehsani is a researcher and consultant in the area of innovation and product development. Working with Accenture Product Innovation and PLM practice in New York City Office, he has consulted and worked with a variety of firms including ExxonMobil, Diageo, Sara Lee, Henkel, Unilever, UPM-Kymmene, Ericsson, SKF, Telefonica, Repsol, Abertis Telecom and Lego. He can be reached at Ehsan.firstname.lastname@example.org