Open Innovation: Getting Started

by Nicolas Bry

Open Innovation: Getting StartedA hundred of OI flowers

Let a hundred open innovation flowers blossom. Beyond the traditional one-to-one partnership for coinnovation, whopping initiatives are thriving on a one-to-many scale: it seems we have already entered Spring.

Taking a closer look, one can sort out different intents, resulting in distinct open innovation processes. First thing to is select the process which corresponds to your purpose.

1. Acceleration Program, Incubation and Tech hubs are very popular organizations right now: OrangeFab, Veolia Innovation Accelerator, Canalstart, Afrilabs, Tech City in London, Paris Numa, Camping, Dojoboost or Paris Pionnières. Value proposition for start-ups is clear: it’s about supporting creative entrepeneurship. From a corporate point of view, it’s more like a toe in the water. Start-ups are often selected on a beauty contest, rather than on a specific need formulated by the corporation: due to this loose coupling, the output might not enrich directly corporate innovation.

2. Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding, and Ideas Contests unfold various forms: dedicated platforms BtoB platforms scouting new technologies or out-licensing technologies  (Innocentive, Quirky), crowdfunding platforms (Kickstarter & Indiegogo), call for ideas or solutions (Netflix prize of $m1, Cisco IPrize of $250k), or tapping MBA students Teams (Hult Innovation Olympics involve 5 teams competing to create best growth options for their sponsor); it’s the kind of ‘search for solutions’ approach that P&G, Open Innovation forerunner, has operated with its ‘Connect & Develop’ team in the famous Pringles story.  It’s ‘collecting from the outside” as Pr. Chesbrough puts it, a ‘one shot’ operation that brings back a large number of inspiring ideas, and feedbacks on the brand and ideas crossevalution by the community. Screening of a winner might drive to new business model;

3. Cocreation platforms are a more permanent endeavour of the brand with its users, it’s opening the doors in a lasting relationship, with a view to enhance product portfolio with customers’ wishlist: Lego Cuuso (crowdsourcing platform where people post their Lego creations: if the creation gets more than 10,000 supporters, Lego will commercialize it and the winner, in turn, will receive royalties), P&G Cocreation channel, (expressing wishes and creating Casino tomorrow’s products, sample testing,  a club of super consumers, Castor (mobile apps store for Crédit Agricole customers), Employee-driven innovation (Facteo La Poste, BNP Paribas Jump, Eurêka Solocal);

4. Codevelopments and Hackatons engage material collaboration with users to develop new products: Open App SNCF Transilien (crowdsourcing on open data, bold ideas turned into prototypes), Mio first 100% open source car developed by Fiat (11,000 ideas submitted by 17,000 subscribers in 120 countries, progressive making of the car synchronized with the consumers). It’s developing new businesses out of collaboration, or even community-driven business like in Threadless HBS case study.

Prepare for intense dialogue

Regarless of what form you will go for, launching an open innovation project seems to me like starting a relationship:

  • You better know what you look for, and reach out with a clear brief of your problem;
  • Spot shrewd trigger for your community: a reason why, incentives in cash or product  discount, grades, and peer recognition;
  • Open Innovation forms show that frontiers are blurring between innovation community and user community: thus open innovation includes a community branding dimension;

  • Instead of listening to, Open Innovation might put you in the reverse position of exposing unused ideas and ‘sleeping beauty’ technology from your corporation to the community;
  • You have to involve the internal side of your company from the start, and organize for adoption of the external ideas or know-how;
  • Think of the dynamics over time: nothing worse that an empty promise.

What, why, how, who, and when?

Tom Culver, Senior Innovation Advisor, drafted an exhaustive mode of operation for Making Open Innovation stick, and detailed the role of an Open Innovation hub, and especially the interactions with the internal business units.

Another angle to frame your process towards external community, is to come back to the overarching questions raised by Malone, Laubacher, and Dellarocas, with regards to collective intelligence:

As innovation funnel presents many opportunities to capture ideas, cooperate on technology, and thrive an external innovation ecosyste, across its porous borders, one last question I would add is: when do you want to develop your open innovation gateway?

And as in every innovation project, my 2 cents on getting started is: learn by doing, focus on a perimeter and a pool size you feel comfortable with, iterate and prepare to scale.

Credits:, Netflix-prize, Cuuso Lego, Fiat Mio, Tom Culver-rti-intl, collective-intelligence-malone-laubacher-and-dellarocas, RTI Intl, lentreprise-com

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    future of TV - Leading by InnovatingNicolas is a senior VP at Orange Innovation Group. Serial innovator, he set-up creative BU with an international challenge, and a focus on new TV experiences. Forward thinker, he completed a thesis on “Rapid Innovation”, implemented successfully at Orange, and further developed at He tweets @nicobry

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  1. I just wanted to comment on Tom Culver, exhaustive mode of operation for Making Open Innovation stick .
    I think the suggested mode of operation is good however I do not think this is exhaustive. As OI program manager I believe a key point Tom should consider in his mode of operation is Communication. Communicating about the approach, and about the means the benefits. This will contribute to gain ownership through the organization. This is crucial if you want your program to succeed.

  2. Nicolas, thanks for the post. Just want correct something. Quirky really belongs in the category of Co-creation, and NineSigma does both scouting for technologies, and call for ideas and solutions, and lot of other things, like expert advisory, Grand Challenges, Technology Landscaping etc. If you go on you will see a huge variety of things that can be done with OI today.
    Andy Zynga

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