One of the most important elements of a company’s successful innovation and growth strategy is its people. Team members and partners come with different backgrounds, experiences, attitudes, and ways of thinking that all contribute to a dynamic culture, robust knowledge bank, and innovative thinking.
More and more global organizations are realizing the competitive advantage of being able to relate to a diversity of peers and customers effectively. They recognize that ‘soft’ or people skills are key to a progressive organization and innovative culture. In fact, finding the right mix of diverse ideas and skills can propel you to new places of achievement. While OI automatically encourages and solicits a robust diversity of ideas, there are ways that crowdsourcing and open innovation can be used more holistically to energize your innovation strategy.
First, engage as many external partners and business functions as you think are necessary to bring an exciting array of new ideas into your team’s innovation process. Then tap ideas and capabilities from this network of suppliers, vendors, universities, existing partners, customers — and yes, even individual inventors or entrepreneurs. See what happens and develops as people are encouraged to share different perspectives. The more people build on each other’s strengths and suggestions, the more likely you are to create something entirely new yet robust.
Successfully finding and engaging the right partners is not easy, but reaching out and allowing diversity to flourish will deliver growth. Along with product ideas, you will gain access to new capabilities and knowledge streams. You can experiment more with different innovation models. Further, fresh sets of eyes can often spot fresh opportunities and ‘white space’ — at a lower price than you’d pay outside consultants. A diverse network can identify gaps in unserved (or underserved) market segments and help you expand into new geographies, channels and categories.
If the relationships are appropriately structured and nurtured, they can even extend your capabilities into new-to-the-company or new-to-the-world areas, increase speed to market with new technologies, products, services and business processes, and lower overall levels of risk. Is it worth the extra effort? Absolutely!