Superficial Open Innovation

Superficial Open InnovationPerhaps the question should be:

Is the term, open innovation, superficial?

The topic was raised at the Open Innovation Summit in Chicago after a presentation given by Susan Harman, Group Manager, Open Innovation at Intuit.

Intuit began their open innovation efforts a few years back, and they have lots of ongoing initiatives. So they do open innovation, but when Susan asks her colleagues if they are doing it, she gets blank stares. This led Susan to questioning the term and now she is learning that it is easier to get people on-board by asking question such as:

  • Are you working with external partners?
  • If so, are you collaborating and experimenting with them, or just purchasing products or services?

Susan’s note: Collaboration and experimentation with third parties (individuals, customers, entrepreneurs, suppliers, academia, bug companies) is what leads to innovation and speed to market.

  • Are you experimenting and doing rapid prototypes?
  • Are you doing this with third parties?

Susan’s note: If teams do not do this, I explore why not. A key element here is that teams do not need complicated contracts to do experiments and that worries about intellectual property should not get in the way.

These questions resonated much better with Susan’s colleagues and while discussing this, Susan found it much easier to get them to buy into the broader idea of open innovation, which for Susan and her team is to open up and to get more external input at the various phases in their innovation process. At Intuit, a key driver for this is their Intuit Collaboratory initiative.

When I spoke with Susan, she mentioned that Intuit might shy away from using the open innovation term in the future. This makes sense to me, as I believe companies need to develop their own definition of what open innovation as well as innovation in general. Companies should also integrate their innovation and open innovation efforts rather than having two separate initiatives just as they should remember that open innovation is just one element to an innovation strategy. It seems as if Intuit is moving in this direction.

Now let’s get back to the opening question. Is open innovation – or the term itself – superficial? What do you think? Leave a comment and join the discussion!

P.S. You can read some of my views in this blog post: Why Open Innovation Hype is a Good Thing

A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing

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Stefan 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. Paul Hobcraft on August 13, 2011 at 8:38 am

    I don’t think it is superfical, I feel you need a ‘gathering point’ that everyone can refer back too. Call what you do internally what you like, that has been done for hundreds of initiatives under some broader lable like ‘change management’ ‘lean and mean’ or productivity. It is what resonates within that culture, for the people to identify and see what is being wanted to be achieved. No a name needs to be adopted that fits the local situation but we all need to come back to the higher ‘point of reference’,otherwise you could not have things like conferences without them built around the recognised theme could you? (smiling)

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