Building Open Innovation Capabilities in Small Business

by Stefan Lindegaard

Building Open Innovation Capabilities in Small BusinessOne of the challenges small companies need to tackle when they considering engaging in open innovation is getting employees up to speed on the skills that are required to be part of an open innovation team. These include skills in collaboration, team building and communication.

Depending on how a small company operates, people are often asked to tackle problem solving on their own rather than engaging in team efforts. So opportunities may be far and few between for building the skills that will make people effective as part of an open innovation team.

One solution to this problem could be to ask your people to try working as experts or solution providers on teams at open innovation intermediaries such as IdeaConnection and to some extent by InnoCentive.

IdeaConnection goes through a big process in creating its teams, partly by crowdsourcing, by software, by profile, by self-selection , by member and facilitator input and by IdeaConnection personal. These teams are also facilitated by IdeaConnection moderators. You can also form teams at InnoCentive, but here you are asked to form and run them yourself.

This gives people who are used to working in isolation the opportunity to join with others to solve innovation challenges posed by companies who are willing to offer rewards to have experts from around the world tackle really hard problems.

Time is, of course, a key concern, but perhaps we can think of this as learning by doing and as an alternative to participating in a conference or a training program. Joining with peers around the world who are tackling a challenge means you’re learning not just about open innovation but also about dealing with issues of diversity.

Being able to deal with diversity is a key skill that small company employees need to build before venturing in the world of open innovation but often it’s not something they have much of a chance to tackle in their daily work lives. In addition, the exposure to different styles of thinking can also be something that such engagement offers that isn’t always readily available within a small organization.

There’s another potential important benefit here as well. If a small company employee happens to have success with a challenge they work on through one of the intermediaries, this will likely generate enthusiasm for adopting open innovation within your organization.

So consider introducing these intermediaries to your employees. Then support their engagement with challenges, knowing that they are learning valuable skills that will, in the long run, support your company’s open innovation efforts.

The smart reader already knows that a smart management team not only starts something like this, they also have an end-goal in mind – make their company a key player in relevant ecosystems – and thus they try to find challenges that are as relevant to the company as possible.


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Stegan LindegaardStefan 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