Speech Therapy Apps Benefit from an Open Innovation Approach

Published Oct-29-12

A company that creates speech therapy apps for mobile devices harnesses the innovation potential of external knowledge sources to innovate faster and develop more apps.

Smarty Ears, United States

The Story:

Speech Therapy Apps Benefit from an Open Innovation Approach Smarty Ears is a developer of iPad apps for speech therapy and communication and uses open innovation to increase the number of ideas it gets to market and to accelerate the product development cycle.

Since its founding in 2009 the company has brought more than 30 apps to market for a number of language delays and disorders, and open innovation has been an integral part of its success story.

Its open innovation model is similar to traditional book publishing. Smarty Ears is the publisher and an individual who submits an idea is the author. These submitters own the idea and the materials they submit and are paid royalties on all sales of their app – from 5% to 15% - whilst the final app and coding belong to Smarty Ears.

The royalty rate is dependent on a number of factors including the complexity of the app, the amount of materials provided by the submitter and their level of expertise.

Expanding the Open Innovation Program

When the company first engaged with open innovation its use of external expertise was limited, confined to apps that Smarty Ears could not develop on its own because of a lack of internal knowledge. But its OI program is much broader now and includes apps that the company could do. It is not just looking at the crowd to fill-in a few knowledge gaps.

Submitting Ideas

Smarty Ears invites members of the public to submit their product ideas via a page on its website. Individuals have to provide a number of details including a description of the app, who it would be for, research and evidence that supports the idea, and how far along the development process they are.

The company’s response time is between two to four weeks, however if it is already working on a similar concept it will inform the submitter almost immediately. If it’s not interested in the idea all materials will be returned to that person, but a dialogue will be opened if it does want to pursue a concept further.

One of the most interesting aspects about its working with the crowd is that Smarty Ears isn't just after a bunch of ideas. It wants to work with people who have the time to devote to co-development and co-creation.

Some Benefits of Co-Creation

Such a deep level of engagement from submitters brings a number of benefits including:

1) When people create an idea they are understandably excited about it. They give their time, energy and passion to make sure it happens, and will become effective marketers for the finished product.

2) When teams collaborate they bring a greater body of knowledge to bear on an issue which can lead to faster development and more products.

3) Product development is a hit-and-miss affair and working with submitters can mitigate risk to some extent as end users are contributing ideas to product creation.


Co-creation is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore because when done well, and under the right conditions it creates a win-win scenario where both the company and the co-creator profit from the success of the product.

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