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Open Innovation and its part in Economic Recovery

Open Innovation and its part in Economic Recovery

By Fay Watkin

Can being more open to ‘Open’ accelerate your innovation?

As you stop operating in crisis mode and start to once again make plans for the future of your business, there is one buzzword epitomising the journey to recovery: ‘INNOVATION’. It has been on the lips of every self-respecting business economist these past months, etched into a plethora of recovery plans, and is fast being held up as some kind of panacea, the antidote to economic downfall. Businesses are being beckoned to play their part and innovate, join the fourth industrial revolution, save the economy. But how do you go about approaching innovation and what do you do if you just don’t know how? Could being open to ‘Open’ be a good place to start?

If you’ve been one of the many pivoting businesses of the crisis, who perhaps turned attentions to making PPE or hand sanitiser, the chances are you’ve already had a crash course in the principles of Open Innovation, albeit born out of necessity and survival. If so, this forced toe dipping may well encourage you to take the full plunge and reimagine a future of collaboration as your business looks to the new horizon. If nothing else, your appetite for risk would have been put to the test, which means you should be well on your way to paving a road of innovation, sentiments explored by Director of Entrepreneurial Spark, Jeremy Ambrose, in a recent article on business futures post Covid-19 “do you now change an organisational culture to “think yes first”? Get your team saying how do we say yes to this in the face of risk, rather than feeding the belly of risk by primarily saying no. Ingraining this approach will keep innovation moving forward and allow teams to iterate towards future needs and mitigate risk quicker.

But, what is Open Innovation and how do you understand it before acting on it. In an article shared by LEAD innovation, they describe what it means to be truly Open. “Open innovation means opening up the innovation process beyond company boundaries in order to increase one’s own innovation potential through active strategic use of the environment. Innovation therefore arises through the interaction of internal and external ideas, technologies, processes and sales channels with the aim of the company to develop promising innovative products, services or business models. Own employees, customers, suppliers, users, universities, competitors or companies of other industries can be integrated.” Read more here

Earlier this month, in a seminal HBR article Why Now Is the Time for “Open Innovation”, the recent flurry of Open Innovation is celebrated and the case is made to embrace this approach as we transition out of Covid: “Open innovation has the potential to widen the space for value creation: It allows for many more ways to create value, be it through new partners with complementary skills or by unlocking hidden potential in long-lasting relationships.”.

And it is partnerships that we (Entrepreneurial Spark) too believe will be the catalyst for SME’s to embrace Open Innovation. To boldly take the step to look outside your own business model and forge collaborative ideas that serve not just your customer’s pain points but also societal woes, has the power to unleash our economy to be more purposeful and sustainable. 

The HBR article goes on to underline how important our lockdown learns will be in shaping our appetite for continued Openness “Having established new ways of doing open innovation during a crisis can then bring much-needed flexibility and, in the end, secure the company’s viability. Don’t waste those experiences by planning for how to get back to the old normal. Plan for a new normal.” We couldn’t agree more! Read the full article here