How many ideas should move from selected to implemented?
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Given the relatively small number of qualified solution providers for any given technical challenge, one fairly productive and successful problem solving approach undertaken by corporate technology seekers is to organize “supplier summits.”

Supplier Summits are comprised of carefully selected and highly regarded partners in the technology seeker’s “inner circle.”

They are effective for two key reasons:

  1. The sponsor has activated high caliber resources who are fully engaged and dedicated to the problem solving endeavor, and
  2. The sponsor and the participants both stand to benefit, even if the latter’s benefit consists primarily of goodwill. It is implicit that each party needs to “give” in order to “get”.

One possible limitation of a supplier summit approach is that the ideas brought forward may be restricted to thinking governed by current industrial paradigms. Thus, additional networking approaches may be necessary in order to introduce new or unconventional thinking. Unlike supplier summits, there are currently very limited win/win opportunities for would-be participants outside of the tech seeker’s supplier inner-circle to contribute to developing qualified solutions. That said, the following is one encouraging sign:

An open innovation event called Quebec Solutions will be held this month in Quebec City, Canada. It appears to be a more open (less exclusive) version of a supplier summit. It is focused against solving specific problems brought forward by a number of corporate seekers. Each participant pays $250 for admission to the event. The fee helps to underwrite the event and likely aids in qualifying the participant base.

$250 represents a fairly modest new business development investment for participants to interact intensively with motivated potential clients and to expand their respective networks beyond its traditional boundaries. Last year, 9 problem seeking companies and 175 participating problem solvers attended. The event’s organizer reported that it yielded some appealing leads and 3 cooperation agreements (which may or may not have led to valid solutions).

While the seeker’s “yield” from this event sounds relatively modest and while the vast majority of the participants likely didn’t derive an immediate financial benefit, there may yet be some residual value for them. There may be some reciprocal value exchanged in this exercise, though its extent is not known to me and may not be easily quantified. It is reasonable to assume that the more equitably distributed the value generated from this event, the more attractive it will be to future participants.

In my view, there also need to be collaborative vehicles for qualified parties who wish to interact and contribute to developing viable solutions, but may only be able to contribute a portion of it and not the entire solution. There are currently no formal mechanisms for parties to share these contributions, and none where reciprocal value is exchanged. This is a missed opportunity.

The opportunity for companies to make a quantum leap in open innovation productivity will come when they make it worthwhile for many more parties to participate and contribute to identifying appropriate and qualified solutions. I don’t profess to know the right incentive system or mechanism for implementing this type of approach. I just know that no one seems to be doing it yet.

By Chuck Frey

About the author

Chuck Frey Senior Editor, founded InnovationTools.com and served as its publisher from its launch in 2002 until the partnership with Innovation Management in 2012. He is the publisher of The Mind Mapping Software Blog, the definitive souce for news, trends, tips and best practices for visual mapping tools. A journalist by trade, Chuck has over 14 years of experience in online marketing, and over 10 years experience in business-to-business public relations. His interests include creative problem solving, visual thinking, photography, business strategy and technology. His unique combination of experience and influences enables him to envision new possibilities and opportunities.

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