Open Innovation

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How a Group of NASA Renegades Transformed Mission Control

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 8 min 

NASA’s Pirates were rebel innovators who created an award-winning mission control system for the shuttle program in record time, on a shoestring budget, and in the face of political resistance. Such renegades are committed to elevating business capabilities and future proofing them for novel challenges, often despite opposition from the status quo. Organizations that want to be ambidextrous need to create a climate that fosters such renegades and nurtures them when they appear.

When Patients Become Innovators

Patients are increasingly developing sophisticated medical devices and services to meet their own needs — often without help from companies that produce or sell medical products. In this way they are able to benefit from advances that aren’t commercially available. Here, we’ll look at two examples — a solution for managing Type 1 diabetes and one for managing Crohn’s disease — and consider them within the context of the free innovation movement that’s gaining momentum across industries.

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Developing Successful Strategic Partnerships With Universities

Collaborations between companies and universities are critical drivers of the innovation economy. As many corporations look to open innovation to augment their internal R&D efforts, universities have become essential partners. However, companies often struggle to establish and run university partnerships effectively.

Winning With Open Process Innovation

Managers in manufacturing companies often keep process innovation activities tightly under wraps. Some companies have good reasons for keeping process innovations concealed. However, the authors’ research suggests that for most manufacturers, such defensiveness deprives companies of a valuable source of ideas for productivity improvement. Many manufacturers, they argue, can benefit from sharing process innovations rather than keeping them secret.

Digital Innovation Lights the Fuse for Better Health Care Outcomes

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

Showing 1-20 of 52