Open Innovation

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Digital Innovation Lights the Fuse for Better Health Care Outcomes

  • Interview
  • Read Time: 7 min 

In an interview with MIT SMR, Cardinal Health’s Brent Stutz describes how the company’s three-year-old innovation center, Fuse, uses a “fail fast and often” mindset toward innovation. “Our innovation process has three phases: explore, experiment, and then pilot. We have an opportunity to pull the plug at any time… I’m not afraid to try 42 things and only have six make it out the other end,” Stutz says.

Mastering the Digital Innovation Challenge

For Volvo Cars, pursuing digital innovation required fundamentally rethinking the organization, while also keeping the core business functioning efficiently. The company did so by balancing four interrelated competing concerns: (1) new and established innovation capabilities; (2) process and product focus; (3) external and internal collaboration; and (4) flexibility and control in relationships with external partners.

The Customer-Inventor Revolution

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 3 min 

For over 30 years, MIT Sloan’s Eric von Hippel has investigated the ways general users of products and services have improved them through tinkering and invention. “The Age of the Consumer-Innovator,” which he co-authored for MIT Sloan Management Review in 2011, was an important marker in explaining how user communities were changing product development. It laid the groundwork for von Hippel’s current research, which looks at the way some of today’s innovation is given away as a “free good.”

Engaging With Startups in Emerging Markets

For large multinationals, forging effective partnerships with emerging-market startups is complicated. Traits that make startups attractive as partners also make it hard for large companies to engage with them. Looking at startups in India, China, and South Africa, researchers identify key factors inhibiting emerging market partnerships and offer strategies for addressing them.

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Improving Analytics Capabilities Through Crowdsourcing

Analytics capabilities can greatly expand a company’s ability to innovate — but what do you do when the talent you need just isn’t available? Agribusiness giant Syngenta, faced with an insurmountable analytics talent bottleneck, turned to crowdsourcing. Using a series of contests, it outsourced the development of a set of award-winning analytics tools to improve its decision making — and learned, in the process, some key factors supporting successful crowdsourcing.

Finding the Right Role for Social Media in Innovation

Social media provides a game-changing opportunity to support new product development. But taking advantage of the opportunity requires more than just a Facebook presence with a loyal base of “friends.” To use social media for innovation, organizations need clear strategies and objectives. They also should look beyond social media used by the general public to lesser-recognized platforms, such as special user forums or expert blogs, for especially valuable user-generated feedback.

When Customers Become Fans

Beijing-based smartphone maker Xiaomi Inc. has actively involved enthusiastic customers — known as “Mi Fans” — in both software and hardware development processes. Tech-savvy users test interfaces and products as volunteers, doing much of their communication on the Internet. Customer involvement in the product development life cycle has not only helped Xiaomi reduce R&D costs but also enabled the company to cultivate a sense of participation and pride among lead users.

The Art of Managing Complex Collaborations

The only way to move forward on society’s biggest challenges may be through consortiums. But it’s not easy to assemble such groups or to keep them together. The experiences of The Biomarkers Consortium, a nine-year-old public-private partnership in the health industry, presents five lessons in managing these kinds of complex collaborations. These lessons are useful for anyone trying to build consensus to address broad societal challenges among multiple stakeholders with both common and divergent interests.

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Developing Effective Intellectual Property Partnerships

All too often, companies from emerging and established economies talk past each other when discussing intellectual property. The result is that often fail to consider all their options for a productive collaboration. The authors detail five ways that companies can structure such IP partnerships, and say that it’s important for a company to choose the one that’s the best fit for the project: “The choice of IP business models is a strategic decision, not merely a legal matter.”

Image courtesy of Astrobotic Technology.

Spurring Innovation Through Competitions

Rather than seeking in-house solutions to problems, companies are increasingly turning to contests to generate many diverse ideas. The authors write that companies are finding “that many of the very best ideas lie outside their organizations, in an ecosystem of potential innovators who possess wide-ranging skills and knowledge.” But the advantages of using competitions to pursue innovation must be set against the potential costs and risks.

Innovation Process Benefits: The Journey as Reward

What motivates volunteers to take part in innovation projects? And how can companies that sponsor such projects better attract individuals from outside the organization to participate? Christina Raasch and Eric von Hippel investigate the ways that individuals can gain significant benefits from participating in an innovation process — and the implications of that for organizations.

Using Open Innovation to Identify the Best Ideas

Which parts of your innovation processes should you open up to the wider world? To reap the benefits of open innovation, executives must understand what to open, how to open it and how to manage the resulting problems. According to authors Andrew King, of Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, and Karim R. Lakhani of the Harvard Business School and the NASA Tournament Lab, many organizations “are finding that making open innovation work can be more complicated than it looks.”

Experiments in Open Innovation at Harvard Medical School

What happens when an academic institution rethinks how research gets done? In an experiment in open innovation applied to scientific research, Harvard Catalyst, a pan-Harvard agency, modified the traditional grant proposal process to bring greater openness into every stage of research. In the end, 150 new hypotheses were proposed. The Harvard Catalyst experience suggests that open-innovation principles can be applied to a well-established research organization.

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Bringing Research and Practice Together

Larry Bennigson and Olubunmi Faleye work in the same town but had never met. Although they didn’t know each other, both men began exploring essentially the same corporate governance question with colleagues – Bennigson from the perspective of a former lead director of a publicly traded company, Faleye as an academic researcher. The two perspectives are complementary – as academic and business insights often can be.

Image courtesy of Ultimaker.

Innovation Lessons From 3-D Printing

3-D printing is the printing of solid, physical 3-D objects. “Just as the Web democratized innovation in bits, a new class of ‘rapid prototyping’ technologies…is democratizing innovation in atoms,” Wired magazine’s longtime editor-in-chief, Chris Anderson, stated in “Makers: The New Industrial Revolution.” Indeed, open-source 3-D printing fits in with the general trend of open-source innovation by collaborative online communities. The big question: How should existing companies respond?

Image courtesy of bylisataylor.com.

Collaborating With Customer Communities: Lessons From the Lego Group

Customer-oriented companies pride themselves on understanding the marketplace and integrating the best ideas into future products. But what would it be like if you found that you had hundreds, if not thousands, of knowledgeable users ready and eager to spend nights and weekends acting as extensions of your research and development department? For the Lego Group, the Danish maker of children’s creative construction toys, this close bond with the user community is not a pipe dream but a reality.

Is There a Tweaker Driving Innovation On Your Team?

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 2 min 

Innovation doesn’t just come from the geniuses who come up with completely original ideas. Instead, it’s tweakers like the engineers in the British Industrial Revolution and Apple’s Steve Jobs who take existing ideas and turn them into something better.

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