Open Innovation for Government: The Internet as a Platform [4/5]

Open Innovation For Government: The Internet as a Platform [4/5]

The Internet as a platform for Open Innovation

We live in a digital age. There is nothing highly contentious about that statement. The Internet has driven an explosion in connectivity and given rise to new and innovative ways of working. With its expansive and all pervasive reach, the Internet has subsequently enabled the rise of social engagement and networking as a genuine and acceptable business tool. As the reliability, speed and breadth of coverage have evolved, so too has the importance of this channel for engagement and interaction. None of this is particularly new. However, within the world of innovation, especially open innovation and collaborative open innovation, we do start to enter a world that is far less mature and where concepts are (at least in a digital sense) powered by our connectedness online.

What do we mean by Open Innovation?

Open Innovation was initially championed by Henry Chesborough, in his book, Open Innovation: `The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology. It is built around the core assumptions that, in a world of widely distributed knowledge, companies cannot afford to rely on restrictive, traditional forms of research and insight and emphasises the importance of collaborating with shared risk for shared reward. It can seem complex and high risk, and in some cases it can be. But if implemented well, the benefits will far outweigh the perceived risks.

What are the drivers that make this more relevant now than any time before?

In an earlier post in this series we explored why there is a need for alternative approaches to innovation, collaboration and ideation, and why engagement is more important than ever. The emergence of new tools to enable this is driving change. The expectations of people are driving change and the affordability of these tools is enabling change. The interoperability of these tools and accessibility across all types of device (mobile, tablet, PC etc.) is making the change truly exciting and opening up real possibility.

Eshaan Akbar, Policy Officer at Merton Council, told the guardian that local governments should take a leaf out of various consumer forums and bring together hundreds and thousands of people asking questions or promoting certain ideas, creating a place where there are solutions and ideas and allowing users to rate contributions. Governments are already aware that there is an increasing need for the right forum for ideas and development.

What does Open Innovation mean for a public sector organisation?

We are going to dig into this in far greater depth later in the series, but let’s explore the concepts high level and consider some of the possibilities.

Consider the possibility of open innovation within policy development, imagine how collaborative and dispersed groups from across a spectrum of society might be engaged to collectively develop potential new policy ideas, to explore these democratically within a social platform, and maybe even help to bring these forward as policy once they are fully worked through with experts. Alternatively, consider how government might more effectively engage with SME’s in addressing some of the more complex challenges they face through a form of open innovation challenge, enabling smaller businesses to bring their solutions with considerably lower barriers to explore the options much earlier in the process than might normally be necessary. The possibilities really are endless. We have some great examples from our work with local authorities, the Metropolitan Police, Department for Education and others. You can listen to our webinar, Open Innovation: What it is and why it matters for public services, to find out more.

image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Editor’s note: Simon Hill’s series on Open Innovation for Government can be found on his Innovation Excellence author page.

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Simon Hill is CEO and co-founder of Wazoku, an idea software company; an Associate Director with the Venture Capital Firm FindInvestGrow; and an active member of the London technology and entrepreneurial community.

Simon Hill




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