When the Commission for Environmental Cooperation launched a challenge to the youth of North America, they received hundreds of unique, green business proposals. The young entrepreneurs competed for seed funding and came up with some truly disruptive ideas.

Have you ever heard of recycling used plastic to form a new type of concrete? Or what about using grocery food waste to create energy that powers the grocery stores? These new businesses received seed funding and are already disrupting existing business models today.

The CEC did this by utilizing the principles of open innovation – rather than trying to come up with ideas to reduce air emissions, mitigate ocean acidification, etc. on their own, they opened up this type of problem solving to their entire network – specifically youth in this case. And that’s the way that they found truly novel solutions to long-standing problems.

This type of open innovation is being used by more and more businesses today. They’re either opening up ideation to their entire workforce, or going so far as to open up ideation to the entire world. But is it just good for new business ideas? Well, no. You can do lots of things, and here are just a few of the ways that you could run an open innovation challenge.

  • You can ask for ideas to improve products or processes. There are always new ways to do things better, faster, or cheaper.
  • You can seek solutions to problems – whether it’s finding a competitive new product idea or overcoming a long-standing regulatory limitation.
  • You can track trends. Do you know what’s coming up next in your industry? Your crowd probably does. What technology are they interested in?
  • You can ask for feedback on existing proposals. You probably have some ideas already, but you need to get feedback on those ideas to make them better.
  • And you can ask for the next problem that needs to be solved. If you’re still not sure where to start – just ask your crowd. They always have problems they want to see you solve. After all, nobody’s perfect and asking for honest feedback on where you can improve will also mean a lot.

The real way that this will transform your organization, however, is in shifting your culture to one of openness, transparency, and collaboration. Where the challenges and successes are shared.

To learn more about what campaign to run in your innovation community, download this infographic today.

By Rob Hoehn

About the author

Rob Hoehn is the co-founder and CEO of IdeaScale: the largest open innovation software platform in the world. Hoehn launched crowdsourcing software as part of the open government initiative and IdeaScale’s robust portfolio now includes many other industry notables, such as EA Sports, NBC, NASA, Xerox and many others. Prior to IdeaScale, Hoehn was Vice President of Client Services at Survey Analytics.