Myths Surrounding Open Innovation – What is the Truth?

By Jon Fredrickson

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InnoCentive is now part of Wazoku

Open Innovation has taken on many definitions and descriptors over the last nearly 20-years. To define what Open Innovation is, it’s important to define what it is not. It is not simply asking people to give random ideas without context or boundaries for acceptable/needed answers. That approach is better known as “mob-sourcing.” Open Innovation is also NOT the beginning of a new wave of outsourcing employee work to the gig-economy so a company can cut headcount. 

Real Open Innovation starts with a well-defined question about a “Problem” that needs a new or fresh solution or an idea. Well defined questions in Open Innovation start with acceptable boundaries. These questions on problems become open innovation challenges when you share; what has not worked in the past, what might work but the client is not certain, or what is “open space” for ideas/solutions that are directionally focused on the problem.

Companies, not-for-profits (NFPs), and governments that take this approach use it to find solutions, refine and define their problem space with InnoCentive using our proprietary methodology, Challenge Driven InnovationTM. When solutions are found, or even if they find there is no solution, that solution gives the employees what is needed to successfully move forward on that particular problem or give the problem a proper funeral. Employee solution ownership is critical for success and leadership must emphasize the importance of employee engagement.

Open Innovation works when leadership addresses the real employee SME overt or covert “antibodies” to “outsiders in the gig-economy,” solving their problems when the SME has not.  Unfortunately, numerous executives allow myths or “anti-bodies” to discourage the use of Open Innovation.  

The following are more common myths and misunderstandings:


Companies Will Have Intellectual Property Conflicts if They Use Open Innovation


Although IP disputes could become a significant problem, InnoCentive has greatly reduced this risk with the help of confidential disclosure and non-disclosure agreements and Challenge Specific Agreements that have been used in over 2,400 global challenges. When you work with InnoCentive, we have the proven documentation and experience in transferring successfully IP rights from well over 80 Countries around the world to our clients.


If We Adopt Open Innovation Practices, We Must Always Disclose Our Research and Development, Technical or Product Data


The reality is that a company, government or NFP only needs to share as much information as it wants to reveal. Organizations can decide to develop different aspects of their products openly or without attribution to the organization or true use purpose for the Solution you are searching for. For example, a food manufacturer could limit the involvement of Open Innovation to a single component, flavor or ingredient. InnoCentive will also keep your organization’s identity and industry anonymous (should you choose) when we advertise your Challenge.


Open Innovation is a Nice Idea, but it Doesn’t Really Work and Won’t Last


Although people didn’t start using the phrase Open Innovation until around the early 2000s, businesses began to embrace this philosophy hundreds of years ago. Major global companies, governments and NFP’s have reaped great rewards from their willingness to utilize open innovation. Solutions from open innovation exist and have been applied already in our daily lives: foods, health care, improved drugs, energy conservation or creation, there are solutions in the international space station and some that will someday go back to the moon and to Mars.


Only Big Corporations Have Successfully Implemented Open Innovation


People seldom hear about the Open Innovation-based achievements of little-known firms, so they sometimes assume that these accomplishments don’t exist. Actually, big and small companies use this concept to build mutually beneficial relationships with a variety of entrepreneurs and midsize businesses in countries around the globe.


Open Innovation would Replace Our Research and Development Department


Open Innovation is NOT outsourcing! In truth, open innovation rarely provides businesses with entire products or services that they can immediately begin selling. It normally assists a firm’s R&D personnel and enables them to accomplish more working with Solutions that may have not ever been applied to their work before!


Although Open Innovation Can be Beneficial, it’s Quite Expensive


This methodology enables businesses to share research and development costs. They don’t need to create as many solutions from scratch. Consequently, it can greatly reduce the expense of inventing new products. Companies can save additional time and money by outsourcing certain duties to firms that specialize in open innovation.

Myths aside, Open Innovation truly offers an effective, affordable way to expedite innovation. Businesses can achieve remarkable results if they’re willing to share limited amounts of information and take the time to develop fruitful relationships Open Innovation experts such as InnoCentive. InnoCentive is proud to have guided and trained some of the largest, smallest and most innovative organizations on earth in their open innovation journeys. 

By Jon Fredrickson

Jon is one of a small handful of experts globally in Open Innovation and connected ecosystems over the last 16 years, the last 3 years with Wazoku, following the InnoCentive acquisition. Jon's experience as an applied innovation futurist has helped his enterprise and government customers insure their success. When not helping clients innovating solutions going to Mars or developing cleaner energy, Jon enjoys family, perfecting smoked foods, and studying history, and ancient civilizations.