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A recent post entitled “Is Open Innovation Over?” attracted a fair bit of attention on this blog. My colleague Michael Arndt, reporting from the Open Innovation Summit in Florida, chatted with an innovation consultant who dubbed the concept “yesterday’s idea”. Not so fast, cried a lot of our readers, including Roland Harwood, who has spent the past three years developing open innovation programs at NESTA (the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts) in the U.K.
I met Roland a year or so ago at a NESTA event in London, and we caught up on the phone just before the holidays. In particular, we spoke about the Open 100, a competition he and his team have launched to “celebrate the power of openness and mass collaboration” in business. (See below.)
We also touched on why Harwood thinks it’d be no bad thing if we all stop using the term “open innovation” altogether. “It’s over-hyped and has been used and misused,” he said bluntly. “But the trends that underpin it are only going to increase.” And then he said something which to my mind hits the nail of so many innovation-related problems smack bang on the head: “Open innovation is being prioritized at a senior level in organizations. Leaders like its promise of creating value quicker, cheaper, faster,” said Harwood. “But it’s the middle managers and heads of departments who have the responsibility for implementing this. They’re struggling for the right processes and business models and they don’t know where to start. That’s where the gap is. The strategic argument has been won; now it’s a pragmatic challenge.” That struck a real chord for me as one of the major challenges for companies looking to implement a grand new innovation plan. The practice is always so much more difficult than the theory.
Anyway, back to the Open 100, which Harwood says came about as a result of hearing so many people wondering who was actually making a go of this lovely-sounding idea of open innovation. “We got the same old examples of P&G, Spinbrush, the Swiffer or IBM, but there are tons of other examples out there, from multinational companies to interesting small companies, all opening up their processes and businesses in different ways and creating substantial value as a result,” he says. The Open 100 aims to collect and celebrate these companies (anyone can nominate a suitable firm) and the winners will be announced in February at a conference to be held at NESTA in London. There’s no prize as such, though the Guardian’s a media sponsor, so some chance for winners to get a media splash.
What comes next? The Bloomberg Businessweek Innovation and Design blog chronicles new tools for creativity and collaboration, innovation case studies in both the corporate and social sectors, and the new ideas that have the power to change the way things have always been done.