This week I attended an innovation event hosted by the open innovation company Innocentive, whereby clients of the site shared insights from their journey down the open innovation path. It was fascinating to hear some of the challenges they faced, especially from a psychological perspective. Getting people to participate, and indeed providing the organisational framework to encourage participation, were points of serious discussion at the event.
With a finite period of time at the event, obviously there would be areas that could not be discussed, and one of these for me was on the aftermath of an open innovation challenge. When the focus of any open innovation lies with the product or solution at the end, is enough focus given to the humans that participate in each challenge?
Whilst it’s clear that the main goal of an open innovation or collaboration project is to gain new insights, products or processes, there is a significant side effect that deserves to be given its place in the sun.
When reaching out across the enterprise for solutions and insights, it is inevitable that if enough people participate that insights will arrive from unexpected quarters. It will be a live unearthing of talent that the organisation didn’t know it had.
Tapping into the inherent intellectual diversity within an enterprise is a crucial facet of open innovation, and indeed it is central to the provision of innovative solutions. Considerable thought deserves to be given to what happens next however.
Once that idea or solution has submitted and implemented, what happens to that individual? What happens to the informal teams that may emerge to collaborate on solving a particular problem?
It seems something of a waste if those employees then return to their day jobs and the skills they briefly exhibited go back to being under-appreciated, that those informal connections that emerged return to a dormant state.
Aside from the improvements in products and services that can come from open innovation, the insights gained from a talent management perspective should be used to better understand the knowledge that sits within the enterprise, with greater effort subsequently made to better utilise these skills in future.
In an age where the urgings of Peter Drucker to create knowledge centric organisations still fall largely on deaf ears some 50 years after he first made them, these are lessons that should not be ignored.