Digital for all now

#Openinno: what are the keys to successful innovation?

Econocom 28 Aug 2015

Breaking down silos and making the barriers between companies more permeable: open innovation is revolutionising organisations! In order to stay in the race, major groups have to reinvent themselves. For some of them, this will mean listening to their employees and clients more, whilst for others it will involve getting inspiration from the agility of startups or working with innovative structures.


Whatever the open innovation involves, there are certain number of best practices that can help spark creativity and boost inventiveness. In an article in Forbes, Jonathan Salem Baskin, President of Arcadia Communications, shares some of the insights he picked up at the last Chief Innovation Officer Summit.

The term innovation covers a variety of concepts, ranging from partnerships with fab labs to collaborative design and buying up startups to setting up incubators, or just simply listening to clients. But all these concepts have one thing in common: they’re based on collective intelligence and implementing stimulating synergies.

Sometimes organisations turn to open innovation out of a sense of frustration (lack of team motivation, poor sales of a product or service, slow time-to-market, etc.) or as way to react to an external event – sometimes a major crisis. Alexis Bonnell, Innovation Evangelist of USAID’s U.S. Global Development Lab, explains how he handled the Ebola pandemic:

“When we faced the Ebola crisis, for instance, we had a clear need and timeframe for solutions, so the U.S. Government issued a call to innovators around the world to submit ideas focused on improving the tools used by frontline healthcare workers. In two months we received 1500 ideas. We were able to collaborate with partners around the world and from a variety of industries (some with experience in development, and some without), but the challenge defined a common ground for us to work together.”




Before implementing any kind of innovation programme, it’s essential to define clearly the goals that need to be achieved and the problems that need to be solved. These goals could be:

  • Gathering and implementing disruptive ideas
  • Solving internal or external problems
  • Boosting R&D
  • Detecting weak signals and new usages
  • Promoting an image as an innovative player
  • Motivating teams to work on an innovation project


Carlos Barroso, Senior Vice President for Global R&D at Campbell Soup, explains:


“Clearly defining the problem you want to solve helps innovation, open or not. Sometimes it happens due to external crisis, while other times it’s in response to shifting consumer behaviors. The hardest part is never the how, but the why.”


EMPOWER crEativitY


Baskin also quotes Jeremy Gilman, Global Strategy & Innovation Director at DMI:


“Once you know the problem, we believe it’s critical to step back and let ideas emerge all around that problem. Providing this space invites participation, and that’s where the unexpected, transformational innovations are born.”


And to get ideas to emerge, you need to have the right people around you, i.e. people with a wide variety of skillsets, backgrounds and personalities. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, for example, famously came up with the concept of the 2-pizza team, i.e. working with teams of five to seven people, (based on the idea that if you can’t feed a team with two pizzas, it’s too large).


Another way to boost creativity is to organise regular brainstorming sessions, encourage knowledge-sharing, organising hackathons, and generally maintain the spirit of GOOB  (get out of the building).




Jeremy Gilman goes on:

“When you open up your brand to people vested in it, good things happen. So you get the benefit of solutions you may not have imagined, combined with the benefits of engaging with communities that can yield future vendors, employees, even evangelists.”

Above and beyond the question of processes, open innovation is also a state of mind. Some companies are more inclined than others to promoting open innovation and have a natural entrepreneurial spirit. For the others, it’s a more difficult transition – but an essential one nevertheless.


Further reading:

L’Oreal: open innovation brings out your inner connected beauty

Orange’s 4G kit for IoT: encouraging digital makers to design connected devices

Elise Nebout, NUMA: “there are a 1000 and 1 ways to be an entrepreneur”

Crédit photo : Pexels / Licence CC0

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