“People don’t have to work for us to work with us”.
LEGO System A/S
Innovation is often thought of as an expensive, complex, and complicated activity to manage. It seems as though only large companies are capable of having labs and workshops where a group of scientists are designing and developing dazzling products that will change our lives. This would be true if companies only managed innovation in a closed way, that is, if their research and development activities were managed exclusively with the knowledge and means of the organization itself. Any company, regardless of its line of business, must always be aware of the environment: the competition, the market, the presence of products or services that meet the needs of consumers. This outward vision must also be kept in mind when it comes to innovation.
Henry Chesbrough, associate professor and director of the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, is regarded as the father of the concept of open innovation (Chesbrough, 2003), which he defines as «the use of intentional inputs and outputs of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation and expand markets for external use of innovation». The idea is to involve agents outside the organization in the innovation process, who are not only usual suppliers, but also customers and consumers. This strategy considers collaboration and knowledge sharing as important elements in the innovation process. By building alliances, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can benefit greatly from sharing their experiences with other organizations that do not even belong to the sector in which they operate.
Open innovation: «the use of intentional inputs and outputs of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation and expand markets for external use of innovation». Henry W. Chesbrough
Open innovation can start with the search for new ideas inspired by the surrounding environment. Having workshops with experts, academic, or industrial researchers can be a good starting point, as well as contacting technological developers of services required by the organization itself. One element that has already been mentioned and should not be forgotten is the integration of clients; this can help to establish more concrete and less diffuse objectives, since the opinion of those who will acquire and make use of the results of the innovation process is taken into account.
To conclude this introduction to the topic of open innovation, it is worth mentioning some of its advantages:
- Access to increasingly innovative ideas.
- Access to knowledge about customers, markets, and technical possibilities.
- Minimization of operational blindness.
- Lower risks in the implementation of development strategies and faster implementation.
- Access to experts and specialists.
- Potential for public subsidies and benefits to the company’s image through cooperation.
Finally, let us remember that those who are open to innovation are open to development.
Chesbrough, Henry W. Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology, Harvard Business Review Press, 2003, p.1.