Key Takeaways from April’s Open Innovation Summit

Conference speaker using a mic and document to present information to an audience.

The Open Innovation Summit is all about expanding innovation beyond a small committee or a lab in the building to your entire organization. Just like any other scaling project, taking innovation company-wide can come with unexpected obstacles. Ideascale’s Jessica Day attended the conference and came away with a few key points to consider and how to apply them practically to your organization.

Innovation Is A Need

Gaby Howe of Station Houston, a technology park that aims to build on Houston’s innovative past for current start-ups, noted in her presentation that what drove her organization was a high-profile failure. They swung to have Houston qualify for Amazon’s second headquarters, and Houston instead wasn’t even shortlisted. 

Yet that failure brought together an enormous number of civic leaders, industry stalwarts, and hungry entrepreneurs to ask what the city could do differently. The lesson taken away is that innovation is a constant need, but it’s not one that’s necessarily noticed without a major catalyst, positive or negative. Finding that need that touches your entire company will help open innovation spread.

Innovation Isn’t Tech-Driven

Mei Jiang of HP noted on stage that everyone, at a certain level, has access to advanced technology at this point, and the timeframe from technology being an expensive luxury to corporate necessity is only speeding up. What matters more is how that technology is applied to your business model and how that differentiates you from the competition. Encourage your team to think of even the most disruptive technology as simply a tool that can be used to engage with challenges in new ways, and to ignore the hype.

Close up of a mic.

Be Adaptable

Tying into the above, an ongoing theme across the conference was the need to roll with changes as they arrive and accept what they demand. This could be learning a new skill, setting aside some work you’ve done on previous innovations that are now obsolete or unnecessary, or even switching industries or markets that were previously unprofitable or inaccessible. Encourage your team to broaden their horizons and to constantly update their knowledge base and skill set so when an opportunity comes along, they can grab it.

Leave Ego Behind

One of the more surprising overarching themes, as well, was how ego interferes. Cisco’s Alex Goryachev discussed a task that most innovation committees probably wouldn’t consider: shortening the line at the cafeteria. He points out that if an innovation team can’t handle what should be a simple task, how will they achieve more complex ones? Innovation should be considered by what impact it has on the employees and what they care about. If they’re sick of waiting for lunch, solve that problem.

Walk The Walk

The final overarching theme is that it’s not enough to say you want innovation; you have to demonstrate it. This takes many forms: backing team member ideas, engaging with innovation software yourself, celebrating innovation in the many forms in your company, and even more. Engagement is the only way innovation can be launched in any organization.

Of course, innovation on the ground is more complicated than a few overarching themes. To learn how innovation platforms can open up your entire organization to the power of innovation, contact us. 

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