Solving Innovation Problems with Strangers

What’s it like?

by Stefan Lindegaard

Solving Innovation Problems with StrangersIn writing and making public presentations about open innovation, I often remind people that while process is important, in the end success comes down to having people with the right mindset and skills. So much can be accomplished when a good team comes together, even when that team consists of experts in various disciplines around the globe who are total strangers to one another.

This is an experience that, as yet, relatively few people have had. So the question naturally arises of what it’s like to join with a team of strangers to solve R&D challenges?

According to individuals who have participated in teams via IdeaConnection, such groups offer a rich opportunity for learning, for honing one’s own problem solving abilities, and to experience the satisfaction that comes with solving a difficult problem that might not have been solved if people were working individually.

Here’s what some participants in IdeaConnection challenges report about their experience:

“The aspects I appreciate and enjoy about working on a team are: subjecting my ideas to consideration by others, achieving something that I would not have necessarily achieved alone, the process of collaboration, debate, persuasion and thought that takes place in a team effort, the learning experience of hearing considering and working on the ideas of others,” says Stuart Levy, a principal consultant at SGL Chemistry Consulting, focused on the advancement of small molecules from discovery into clinical trials. He has worked on one IdeaConnection challenge, which his team won.

“Our team members were all committed and gave it all they could,” says Keith Everett, a system and hardware designer working in the biotech/pharma sector. “Solving challenges by myself is usually how things go because I work at a small company, but I enjoy working with a motivated and industrious team just as much, if not more. For IdeaConnection I have worked on four challenges and currently have not completed two, and am still waiting to hear of the success of the other. One I have already won in association with the great team I worked with.

“Solving a challenge with people from various backgrounds is a very rewarding experience,” says Paul Comet, who has worked on three IdeaConnection challenges, including one successful one focused on medical biomarkers and their application.

Of course, things don’t necessarily always go 100 percent smoothly when working with diverse teams of strangers from around the world. The key then is having a skilled facilitator to help people bridge differences. “When things are going well we all learn new approaches and techniques from one another, and with the help of a skilled facilitator, encourage one another forward,” Comet points out. “However ‘perfect harmony’ is rare and ‘keeping a balance’ truly challenges the facilitator’s management skills!”

There will be much more focus on this topic as the open innovation movement continues. I look forward to contributing further as well as reading the thoughts of others on this topic. Perhaps you can start by sharing your comments?

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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

Stefan Lindegaard




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  1. Sumit Gupta on September 27, 2011 at 7:50 am

    The one question I want to ask here is that either all the commercial innovation happening is not innovation at all, and if they are, is the innovation ladder is leading against the wrong wall as of now?
    We are all focussed on innovations like the iPad, iPhone while thousands of children are dying of proper sanitation and malnutrition. I am not taking away the benefit of technological innovations, but asking a more humane question about “are we solving the right problems?”
    I wrote about the topic at

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