Knowledge is the currency of the 21st Century. The environment in which business operates is changing faster than ever. It is no longer enough to incrementally enhance business processes or chase the newest technologies. To meet the increasing rate of change, businesses need to re-think the organization itself – both from the inside out and increasingly, from the outside in.
Enterprise Open Innovation or EOI is the natural progression forward. You need access to brilliant minds, hyperspecialists and innovators from around the globe. You of course want to create assets in a massively parallel fashion, allowing you to bring value to market faster than ever before. You want a mechanism that allows you to take more swings and do so on less spend. However, for it to work inside your organization it has to follow certain processes, the outputs must meet didactic IT standards and all intellectual property concerns must be met head-on for you to actually produce through such a vessel. EOI is the leap that enterprises have been waiting for.
The organization of the 21st Century will look nothing like the organization of the last. It is easy to get distracted by the difficulties in the current environment, but the future is already being built in a surprising array of industries by existing and new companies alike. Terms such as social networks, community, crowdsourcing, Open Innovation and Collective Intelligence are bandied about but no matter the moniker of the moment, innovation in the 21st Century is seeded in knowledge, shared in community and harvested through connections between people that allow organizations to create value in an entirely new fashion at a scale not previously seen.
What will separate those who can successfully navigate this age of the knowledge platform will be their ability to scale these new, always-on resources. You may already know and have seen what are described as "Grand Open Innovation Challenges". These would be your Doritos "Crash the Super Bowl" contest, the Netflix $1 Million Dollar Algorithm Challenge and most recently, the $2 Million Dollar DARPA Robotics Competition. While amazingly effective for generating marketing awareness and drumming up scores of contributors, the truth is these are nearly impossible to scale effectively. It can take months of planning to execute a campaign of this size and to repeat the effort 2x, 5x or 20x over simply becomes non-manageable. Perhaps more importantly is the fact that these "Grand Challenges" do not represent how real work, productivity and innovation are accomplished inside the enterprise. So if scale is the key to success, what is the answer to achieving such scale?
Put aside the idea of erecting enormous "Grand Challenges" at $2 million dollars a clip and instead re-envision how you approach work and innovation when you can seamlessly plug into a platform and get multitudes of assets delivered to you on demand, crafted by specialists, built to your exacting standards, on time, at the predefined budget. What would that do for you?
Innovation and productivity in this century will be dominated by companies and individuals within global organizations who master knowledge platforms. Enterprise Open Innovation takes the promise of Crowdsourcing and "tapping a global talent pool" and makes it actionable for the business world. It's happening right now. This shift to EOI is already underway.
Clinton Bonner is the Director, Social Marketing & Content at TopCoder (www.topcoder.com). He may be reached at email@example.com or @TopCoder on Twitter