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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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 www.hypios.com 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 hypios.com 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.