TWO INNOVATION PROBLEMS MOST COMPANIES FACE, AND A NEW OPEN INNOVATION ECOSYSTEM TO SOLVE THEM
From both conversations and observations, across all industries and company sizes, the same underlying issue keeps emerging: sooner or later every company reaches the limit of the depth and freshness of ideas their internal ideation efforts can produce.
The fundamental causes of this issue boil down to tunnel vision. Team members often come from similar educational and professional backgrounds, share specialist knowledge and fundamental assumptions about how the world works. As the “outside” world keeps evolving faster and getting more complex, a team’s focused knowledge (an asset most of the time) becomes a hurdle. What team members don’t know about the outside world limits their ability to see the bigger picture and to generate genuinely new ideas.
Companies typically address this issue in two ways.
Larger companies jointly explore opportunities outside the company’s current scope with their own “Open Innovation” initiatives (Grants4Apps by Bayer is an excellent example), or connect to startups and to other mature companies through shared platforms like Innovation Roundtable or massive events like VivaTech, Slush or WebSummit. Smaller companies allocate some of the time of their innovation team members to exploration.
Problem 1: this is a slow, labor-intensive and often expensive process.
Finding the right (and trustworthy) partners, building relationships and finally creating synergies takes years. Crucially, as this task is usually delegated to the innovation team (and the bulk of the company’s employees aren’t involved), many ideas and projects they bring “inside the house” meet resistance.
The second approach involves more people from across the organization in the innovation process, giving them more opportunities to work on both incremental and disruptive projects, and coaching them when needed.
Problem 2: this requires a relatively large internal pool of people combining innovation readiness (a cultural trait) with basic innovation and entrepreneurship skills.
In many companies there are never enough qualified volunteers to generate, try out and develop all the fresh ideas a company needs. It’s both a cultural problem – employees often hesitate to step forward, to take a risk, no matter how much support and safety (e.g. guaranteed job no matter what happens to the internal startup) companies offer – and a skills gap.
Coronavirus has made both problems more acute by adding a new urgency and reducing resources available for innovation. Many companies are riding out the virus in survival mode. We hear from senior executives, innovation managers, and front-line employees over the last two months that R&D and innovation budgets for 2020 have been slashed. Every “unnecessary” expenditure of both time and money has been put on hold.
At the same time, some companies have already seen their livelihoods severely threatened by the crisis, and have been forced to substantially accelerate innovation plans in order to survive. Pret a Manger offers a great example.
To solve the twin issues of the high cost of the current innovation approach and limited in-house talent pool, a new approach is needed.
An ideal solution would have to meet the following criteria:
- Provide fast access to a large variety of external know-how and capabilities within the context of a specific industry (a company’s own or one to be explored), involving companies from multiple sectors and not just technology
- Offer low entry barrier in terms of both time and money
- Deliver impact on both culture and skills of employees while remaining directly relevant to the content of their work, ideally through brief perspective-changing learning experiences
- Recurring process, consistent in quality over time and open to a substantial number of employees to ensure cumulative impact on culture of the entire company
- Rich in opportunities for innovation practitioners to quickly learn from one another, to exchange best practices and improve efficiency of their respective programs
So, over the past 6 months together with a small team, we’ve been building such a solution.
Our Innovation-Ecosystem-as-a-Service is a bundle of networks, events, and services that quickly connects internal innovation efforts to a broader ecosystem. Through our events we rapidly train a substantial number of people in innovation and entrepreneurship.
Just as any kind subscription-based as-a-Service, IEaaS is easy to step into and out of, less expensive than building your own alternative, and scalable depending on the participating companies’ needs and budgets.
STARTING FAST, BUILDING OVER TIME
It will take years to develop the complete package of networks, events and services, but there’s no time like now to get started.
Today, we’re announcing our first five in-person Open Innovation events: Hack Healthcare, Hack HR, Hack Mobility, Hack Utilities 2, and Hack Logistics that will lay down the foundation of the ecosystem.
Infused with the know-how and networks of Hack Belgium, these events are built around current, high-priority issues that require collaboration between different kinds of companies and organizations to be solved. Each event will be preceded by online Ecosystem Workshops and followed by post-event tracks, creating a multitude of opportunities to meet and collaborate with people across five “vertical” networks.
We are now looking for partners to build out and enrich this ecosystem. If your company is interested in joining us in this endeavour, or in leveraging our ecosystem to supercharge your innovation efforts, let’s talk!