Defining an Open Innovation Challenge

Defining an Open Innovation Challenge

defining an open innovation challengeSuccessful results in open innovation depend on great extend on the problem definition. Albert Einstein once said, “If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it”. Regarding open innovation, companies, often, do the opposite thing. They spend one minute in defining the problem and, as a result, they are much too generic when asking for solutions through an open innovation platform. For that reason, they normally get lots of ideas for their problem but most of them, useless in adding any real value.

In the article “Linked Innovation: 5 Keys to Success in Open Innovation Challenge Management”, Frank Piller and Rick Wielens present the problem definition as one of the fundamental factors for getting the most out of open innovation through the challenge handling. Determining the objective of asking for external inputs is essential.

According to our criteria and experience too, well defining a challenge is crucial in open innovation and, for that, it is necessary being sure that it is SMART, following the Peter Drucker’s approach in the management by objective concept. Through this, the challenger warrants that he is presenting a solvable task for the right person. Ultimately, an open innovation platform is not more than the tool that will enable him to connect his problem with the talent to address it.

To present a SMART challenge some questions need to be answered previously:

  • The challenge must be Specific. It is hard to find a concrete solution for general necessities. On the contrary, external knowledge can be useful to unclog technological problems such as, in the case of food companies, functionality problems in a product or questions relating to an internal process that doesn’t work. A good way to start defining a problem is answering questions such as: What do I want to accomplish and why? The challenge needs to be translated into a final real solution to an existing problem, meaning applied innovation.
  • The challenge must be measurable. The definition of the problem needs some indicators that suggest that progress is being achieved. “What can be considered a successful resolution of the problem?” can be a useful question and, if we are talking about a new food product, for instance, we can also think of: “which are the properties expected?”
  • The challenge must be attainable. The goals need to be realistic.
  • The challenge must be relevant. The result of solving the challenge has to be worthwhile. It is necessary that the solution of the described problem is an improved answer to an important current situation.
  • The challenge must be time-bounded. It is necessary to give a challenge a target date because the commitment to a deadline helps the solvers to focus and the company to define something that is really possible to define in realistic deadlines.
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