Don't Confuse User-Driven Innovation With Open Innovation

by Stefan Lindegaard

Bandage on Dog - Wound CareDenmark has its share of world-leading companies on user-driven innovation. Lego, the toy company, is a great example of this through their Adult Fan Of Lego groups and many other initiatives.

Another example is Coloplast which develops products and services that make life easier for people with very personal and private medical conditions. Their business includes ostomy care, urology and continence care, and wound and skin care. They are considered by many as a global pioneer of user-driven innovation due to their work with doctors, nurses and users of their products.

Last week, I read an article on how Coloplast has set-up communities for their users to share experiences and ideas. You can use Google to translate the Danish article and you can check out one of their communities here: International Stoma Innovation Community. In the article, Coloplast claims that they have halved their development time over the last couple of years partly due to the external input and they also mention that they are now using many more external partners than previously.

It sounds good, but nevertheless, I think Coloplast is a nice example of company that is still stuck in the user-driven mindset. The main idea of user-driven innovation is to get input from the users – and perhaps even the eco-system – of your products or services.

Open innovation is about integrating external partners in the entire innovation process. This should happen not just in the idea or technology development phase but also in all other phases towards market acceptance. User-driven innovation is great as it directs your innovation efforts towards market needs. Open innovation takes you to the next step by providing more opportunities through external partners as you address those market needs.

Which red flags did I pick up on Coloplast? First, take at look at their corporate website. I cannot find any guidelines on how to approach Coloplast with ideas or other contributions. Compare this to Procter & Gamble where you can find a very visible link to their Connect+Develop initiative.

Another red flag is the stoma community itself. It really gives you the feeling that it is about how Coloplast can tap into users rather than how they can work together and build relationships with external partners. This is what user-driven innovation is about. It should just not be confused with open innovation.

Furthermore, if you search for “innovation” on Coloplast’ corporate website nothing shows up besides a links to their international stoma community. This is actually a bit scary for a company that perceives itself as being quite innovative. It makes me – and perhaps many others – wonder how serious they really are about innovation…

The reason for writing this blog post is that I want to caution Coloplast – and other companies – not to be confused by the two types of innovation. This can be misleading and damage the possibilities for a company to become the preferred partner of choice which is a key objective on the open innovation game. However, I also think user-driven and open innovation can be a powerful combination and hopefully we will experience great cases on this in the near future.


Stefan Lindegaard is a speaker, network facilitator and strategic advisor who focus on the topics of open innovation, intrapreneurship and how to identify and develop the people who drive innovation.

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  1. Integration is the way to push Open Innovation off its tracks. You can and should do Open Innovation without integration.

    You have too many ideas, you need all of them for your roadmap to succeed, but you cannot do them all. All you really need from an open innovator is their ability to get the idea implemented by the time your roadmap needs it. You do not need to manage them in anyway at all. Nor, do you need a cut of their revenues, because you have your own revenue sources.

    Management focus cannot be wasted in a global economy. We keep wasting it, so our economy is shrinking in a zero-sum game way, which the economists warn about as being the road to poverty. We need to manage our focus by freeing ideas for Open Innovation.

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