Finding Fantastic Solutions in Unexpected Places

This week IM caught up with Klaus-Peter Speidel, who has embraced open innovation in the company he co-founded - hypios, a social marketplace for solutions. Klaus-Peter tells us more about the need-oriented approach to innovation and the importance of multiplicity and open-mindedness in the idea creation process.

What is innovation management to you?

If I needed to find a slogan for my approach to innovation management, I would have two candidates: “Method follows need.” and “Don’t limit yourself.” In other words: be agnostic about methods and don’t think about methods without first thinking about what exactly you want to achieve. Work with multiple people in-house, using multiple methods, and with multiple people outside, using different kinds of collaborations.

Hypios, the company I co-founded identifies obvious and unobvious experts online based on specific problem-descriptions. We then invite these experts to submit solutions to the problem-solving competitions we organize. I know how useful this process can be to get new insights. But I will only post a problem on hypios if it’s a good fit. If you choose method independently of need you’ll end up frustrating everyone.

Based on this insight there are three clear steps to successfully manage innovation:

  1. Get a sense of the major needs in your organization’s innovation process and prioritize them.
  2. Get an overview of existing methods and understand what they can help you achieve.
  3. Correlate specific needs with specific methods and test them one by one.

In order to suceed (or fail) fast, it’s useful to run tests with different methods in parallel. As different methods will be applicable to different needs, this is not uneconomic. To make sure the test is useful, you should put everything in place for every method to have a fair chance.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

Hearing a senior researcher say: “Wow! This has never been done in our industry before” when one of the Solvers on hypios explains his solution to one of our clients; seeing again and again that valuable solutions can come from anywhere, and that a chocolate maker from a small family-run business can have answers for large multinational corporations. In other words: I love to see that valuing individual ability over curriculum is realism, not idealism.

And the most frustrating parts?

Arrogance: Meeting executives who think (or pretend) that their company already knows everyone relevant and that if there is someone relevant who is not yet working for them, they’ll hire them the coming week. It puzzles me how anyone could possibly still believe this. My consolation is that this belief won’t last.

What’s your next big challenge?

Making sure that people don’t resist openness for the wrong reasons. Fortunately there are as many wrong reasons as things that can be done about them. One thing is to help organizations better understand what really is and what isn’t confidential. Another thing is to make sure that people don’t reject fantastic solutions simply because they come from the outside or don’t look like what they thought the solution would look like (“NIH”).

One step towards overcoming this is to put people in touch for real rather than just having them submit solutions online. We’ll need to move from purely transactional problem-solving to a more multi-dimensional marketplace with multiple interactions and conversations, just like on a real marketplace. This means making hypios’ process even more social, in order to further increase the usefulness of our platform for solution-seekers, while also making the experience for solvers more rewarding.

About Klaus-Peter Speidel

Photograph by Sandrine Photographie(s)Klaus-Peter co-founded hypios in 2008 and created the department for Concepts & Communications which defined and implemented hypios’ communications strategy. Centralizing all activities on offers a unique combination of expert-search and community-building. This approach allows to identify existing expert-solutions while also facilitating the discovery of solutions from other fields. Relying on semantic web tools as well as Artificial Intelligence, hypios  now has a broadcast reach of more than 700.000 Solvers. For each problem, hypios launches a call for solutions on and automatically identifies thousands of experts that are invited to participate. Today, several Fortune 500s from different industry sectors (like consumer-goods, aerospatial engineering, mining and others) regularly rely on hypios to solve their R&D problems.

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  • Martin Duval

    Great article Klaus, congratulations !

  • Open Innovator

    Klaus-Peter Speidel’ biography is almost as long as the article itself, and full of the arrogance he’s pointing out within the executives’ meetings.

    Moreover, it is always delightful to read an article of a philosopher about something he doesn’t really know about. With very general advices like “Correlate specific needs with specific methods and test them one by one”. And a lot of storytelling.

    This article looks like an advertising for Klaus-Peter Speidel and his company.

    What a pity to have so many people pretending, and so few really doing.

  • Nicholas Manning

    The claim that a person’s background in philosophy renders this person incapable of knowing anything about innovation management seems rather reductive and mean-spirited. Isn’t interdisciplinarity to be encouraged, especially in the field of innovation? currently work between neuroscience and literature, and this type of disciplinary linkage needs good will on both sides. As for specificity, “So many people pretending, and so few really doing” seems overly general: how does such pretending come through for you in this piece?

  • Anonymous coward

    Dear Anonymous,
    1. As far as I am concerned, I don’t experience founding a start-up as pretending, but as doing.
    2. The necessarily limited length of such an interview doesn’t allow for the in-depth discussions that you seem to be looking for. It has done it’s job if it’s inspiring and makes a point.
    3. As for your chosen example… “Correlating specific needs with methods” in the context of the interview seems pretty clear. It is opposed to having your prefered method, like patent search, or TRIZ, or Lateral Thinking, or posting a problem on an open innovation platform, which you apply across the board whenever you face an R&D or innovation problem.