« We have to be able to think of people outside as the part of our system rather than customers or complainers« , says Paul Sloane, one of the greatest speakers on innovation today. eYeka interviewed Paul, who has recently published « A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing » to find out how he sees the future of collaboration.
eYeka: How would you describe collaborative innovation and why is it relevant today?
Paul Sloane: Collaborative innovation is relevant today because people realized that they don’t have enough ideas or talent internally. Although the company may employ many bright and smart people, there are a lot more many bright and smart people outside the company too and if you can harness their energy, their enthusiasm, you can get some great ideas. People outside the company are by definition more diverse. They come from different backgrounds, different cultures, they don’t have the same view of the world you have inside the company. And consequently they are more likely to gain insights and to see possibilities that you can’t see.
Why are some companies still reluctant to use collaborative innovation and co-creation?
This approach is still very new and people inside the company can feel a little bit threatened. They might think that people outside the company do their job better and cheaper. Another issue is transparency: you have to reveal what you are looking for and therefore people can know more about you, your competitors can know more about you, and some companies feel uneasy to take that step.
Do you believe that the increased use of co-creation will transform the way we see Business and the Consumer?
I think so. I think some consumers are very active, interested by the brand, intelligent and able to contribute. The trick is to tap into these talents, harness them and work in collaboration with them. I think we are going to see more and more people participating on a large scale in helping companies to be more creative and coming to better solutions to meet customer needs.
Why in your opinion do consumers participate in co-creation projects?
I think it’s a desire to contribute, a desire to be recognized, and a desire to make a difference. I think money is not the main motivation factor. It’s more about participation, recognition, contribution and ability to change things, ability to influence the future of your brand. For example, a lot of crowdsourcing sites are proposing small rewards yet get a large amount of contribution.
What are the main societal changes influencing the growth of co-creation?
I think the rise of social networking is the most obvious trend. This is the opportunity for people to engage with brands and to influence them. People want to be connected to other people having the same interests in the world. If you are interested in Raymond Weil watches, then social media is your chance to have a say, to contribute and to share ideas with other enthusiasts.
How to face the possible conflict between internal and external contributions in the innovation process?
It’s better to have a competition of ideas than having too few ideas or poor ideas. Ideally, you should look at the quality of the idea rather than at the source of the idea.
What are the differences between co-creation, crowdsourcing, and collaborative innovation?
They are all aspects of open innovation. Open innovation is the term coined by Henry Chesbrough to describe the process of using external resources to help drive your innovation. There are many ways that have been developed: suggestive approach, participative approach, directive approach, groups of experts or larger audiences, etc… There are many different approaches as there are different participation sizes and different challenges.
What are the best co-creation or crowdsourcing examples for you?
The ones I often show are Innocentive, NamingForce, Threadless.
They show different aspects: Innocentive is very technical, having large awards and big scientific challenges, while Threadless has smaller projects as T-shirt design. In the case of NamingForce you have a simple crowdsourcing competition and you don’t have to be an expert to participate.
Do you believe that the public sector could also use this approach to tackle society’s problems?
Absolutely. I think people want to contribute even better as they want to see better services, better communities, but it’s a big commitment: if you can’t evaluate all ideas seriously, you shouldn’t undertake a crowdsourcing or a co-creation venture.
What are the keys to successful open innovation?
First of all, it is important to understand what you want from open innovation, what is your goal. You have also to decide whether you will make it open or suggestive which is restricted to a limited number of people. You need to ask yourself whether your company culture is open enough for this approach: are you able to share, to trust, to think in terms of « win-win »? You have to be able to think of people outside as part of your system rather than customers or complainers. They are people who work with you. You have to be transparent and more open. If you have the culture in place and the process is in place, then you can succeed.