Open Innovation, Teams and Tea Parties

January 15, 2014 By Paul Wagorn

Open innovation crowdsourcingI have two wonderful daughters. The oldest is 7 years old, and in many ways, she is the most prolific, efficient and successful user of open innovation that I know, and I think that there is a lot that can be learned from how she does this.

Almost every time that my daughter has a problem that she can’t quickly solve on her own, her first thought – her very first instinct – is to go external. She outsources the solution to her problem… to me, or to my wife.

But when you think about it, it’s an extremely efficient way of working. She might be going about her daily activities, when she then encounters some sort of problem. She thinks about it for a minute and realizes that she can’t solve quickly it on her own.

The call then goes out: “… DADDY!”

I come over and help her solve her problem, and when it’s sorted out she then immediately continues on with the rest of her day, focussing on her core competencies of coloring, playing with her dolls and organizing tea parties.

An important aspect of this is that when I offer her a solution, I’m not giving her 25 or 50 solutions – I’m giving her the optimum amount of solutions: One – the one solution that solves her problem. I’m not overburdening her unnecessarily, and this is powerful because it allows her to learn, and then carry on and accomplish so much more.

If every company could work like this, they’d be innovating like crazy.

Our job at IdeaConnection is to help companies do exactly that. We help them to efficiently and effectively access a global resource to help them solve problems and find technologies in way that de-burdens the whole process.

Crowdsourcing and Burden
Crowdsourcing is interesting because it can give companies access to external people who may be able to solve their problem, but it can be a tremendous load to have to review technical whitepapers from potentially hundreds of submitters. Considering that one of the reasons that companies use open innovation in the first place is to help speed product development, getting bogged down and having to sift through a massive stack of whitepapers is certainly not a very speedy approach.

This doesn’t really sound like the efficient “go out, get the solution, keep moving ahead” approach that my daughter uses, does it?

IdeaConnection’s framework and methodology of how we solve problems for some of the biggest companies in the world is quite unique, and one aspect of this framework that contributes a lot to our efficiency and success is that we use teams.

Teams Make the Difference
In our model, a small number of multidisciplinary teams of experienced, creative and hand-picked experts compete to develop a solution for the client. It is of course widely accepted that teams typically outperform individuals when tasked with creative problem solving, but using teams can also be very impactful on other aspects as well, including the burden on the client’s side.

One of the beautiful things about teams is that, like crowdsourcing, you still tap into the minds of many diverse people – but the team dynamic does a lot of the preliminary work for you. They carefully consider each idea and option, they research the ideas and think them through, putting them through a peer-review-like process.

What you end up with at the other end of this process is that a small number of only the very best ideas and solutions are presented to you, properly investigated, thought through and supported by expert teams, so you are relieved of a major portion of the work.

This gets you the solutions that you need quickly and with a minimal burden on your technical resources, freeing your company up to focus on your own coloring books and tea parties.

Paul Wagorn is the President of IdeaConnection, one of the world’s leading Open Innovation intermediaries.

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Reader Comments

This is an easy to understand description of why teams make the difference for solving problems.
Posted by Vern Burkhardt on February 4, 2014

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