Open Innovation. It’s one thing that the word innovation has been bludgeoned to death. It’s another when extra words are added as if a new wonder drug has been found to cure all of new product blues. Just do this and all is cured. Open Innovation is a great example.

I read an Open Innovation portal article by Paul Wagorn of IdeaConection today and while I agree with almost everything, I think a few key points are missed or are not directly addressed about the the real problems with how we conduct open innovation.

The simple fact is, why on earth would anyone with a truly great idea submit it blindly through some service to an unknown or giant company with no confidentiality agreement and maybe no patent on the pure hope an unknown group might be interested and not mess with them? I just have never seen one of these requests, thought of a great idea and then been drawn to submit it. Ever.

Even worse are these contests or open needed “tech needs” that are so open ended as to bely that almost anything could solve their problems. Then there is the flip side, where the tech specifications are so filled with paradigms guised as the voice of the customer as to completely eliminate any real innovative thought. A personal favorite – “we want an adhesive where no heat is used”. That’s just wrong. What the user in most cases means (I’ve seen this at least a dozen times in ten years) is that they don’t the heat on the substrate or they do not want a high energy input system. By writing this improperly, the concept of point heating in-line or at a nozzle to active a chemistry or release an ingredient or whatever is utterly lost. Never say never.

So what’s the bottom line? Inventive people do not generally trust innovation portals and their requests. The likely return is simply not significant. The success rate is generally abysmal. The shackles on inventors thoughts are too great. Worst of all – the requests are not, as Paul quite aptly describes, written well for the one needing the solution and generally the offered technologies are not customer focused either. As a friend noted a few years ago, “no one woke up this morning thinking I need chemical x or device y”. What they woke thinking is my production line is too costly, too slow or my products are not pleasing my customers because of a, b and c. Present and request technologies based on that, and the portal has a chance to succeed. Then again, what customer or seller uses the word portal? Now a marketplace, with great advertising and messaging about needs and solutions – that’s the real deal. A supermarket of real solutions drawing in real customers based pun c;early,m simply defined needs. That’s what I’m talking about.

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