Imagine truly ‘open’ innovation

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” So sang the late John Lennon on his timeless classic, Imagine. Lennon relentlessly championed the cause of world peace, right up to his assassination in 1980. Who knows what he might have achieved three decades on, in an age when mobile communication can shut down Wall Street and topple despotic regimes and enable children in emerging economies to access undreamed-of opportunities? The canvas of possibilities is being rapidly redrawn yet many of those at innovation’s frontline, such as consultant and author, Stefan Lindegaard, are less than upbeat about the prospects for radical change.  Even open innovation is less than open, Lindegaard says, because it’s “primarily driven by big companies and most of them – if not all – have one key objective in common: getting better products and services to market faster in order for them to make more money”. Nothing wrong with that, he adds, “but we need to understand that the game of innovation today is very much about being able to assemble the best innovation communities and make them work better than competing counterparts”. The open innovation game, though, doesn’t always have to be led by business. The city of San Francisco recently piloted a design-thinking project to explore ways to resolve the city’s taxi and transit communication problems. Facilitated by a local incubator, the ‘unhackathon’ involved more than 80 designers, technologists and business professionals and produced an array of potential solutions. As a summary of the project put it: “Now, instead of agonising over budget limits or personnel shortages, the conversation can instead focus on identifying the right partners in the private sector and defining the problem in a way that motivates viable solutions.”

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