From Consumer to Collaborator: A Look at Open Innovation

Handshake.
Connect with your most important customers.

Listening to your customer is part of any business, now even more so than ever. Social media and online connectivity let consumers offer organizations instant feedback, both positive and negative, from detailed reviews to passionate emails to there-and-gone Snapchat snaps. This is more than just a way to better understand who shops with you, though; with the right platform, it can be a source of powerful innovation.

What Is Open Innovation?

Traditionally, innovation in companies has been “closed.” Projects are kept secret, details are not shared outside the company or even certain departments, and secrecy is a requirement of working on the project. Open innovation reverses this by laying out the project, the process, and the goal to other companies, or the wider public, and welcoming ongoing commentary and discussion.

This can be as simple as polling customers on what feature they want in the next update, or it can be an ongoing, complex campaign that draws in feedback and incorporates it throughout the entire process. The point, however, is that consumers are stakeholders in the project; their opinions have been collected, studied, and incorporated where relevant.

When Should I Use Open Innovation?

Some industries simply can’t be open, due to contractual or client constraints. However, when you can use it, open innovation is particularly useful for complex problems, creating a much larger pool of talent to draw on for solutions, and for situations where the consumer needs a voice. A good example of this is open betas for software, where the general public can download the latest version of an upcoming operating system or another tool with the understanding that it may not be stable and that they’ll need to disclose any bugs or issues they find.

Because it invests customers in product development, it can also be useful from a marketing perspective or if you want to use crowdsourcing, but don’t want to deal with the downsides of the entire internet having a vote on your product.

How Should I Use Open Innovation?

Open innovation starts with an engaged, interested customer base. Likely you’ve already used a fairly simple form of it, reading customer feedback and asking your innovation team what they think of the responses.

The best method for drawing on open innovation is to have a platform designed for it that encourages participation while giving you control of the process. For example, a good platform will offer you the ability to analyze responses to questions and comments and set timeframes for votes. It gives you oversight and allows creativity to grow while letting you pull the intellectual weeds, like trolls and people who are overly hostile to what they perceive as criticism.

Open innovation isn’t for every project. However, for any project where consumers are passionate and you’re allowed to involve their voices, it’s worth looking into as an option for your innovation strategy. By the end of the process, you’ll better understand your customers, what they want, and how they want it. That can drive even closed innovation processes in powerful ways. To learn about how open innovation platforms work, request a demo today! 

Comments are closed.