Open innovation can be driven from outside the firm for both customer segments: business-to-consumer and business-to-business.
Social media gives businesses immediate feedback and whilst it can be daunting to open yourself up to criticism, if it’s constructive you can learn how to improve your product or service offering. There are online tools to help you better understand how your customers see your business. Sentiment analysis can help you understand if the comments are positive, negative or neutral. Simple surveys are also a great way to get feedback.
Activating your customers can create more value. Think about how Lego revived their business by engaging with their community. They share their designs on social media and this feeds directly into new product releases as the company knows what interests their customers.
You can also open up your business to your customers through crowdsourcing ideas and new features they’d like. Voila, you’ve just got some ideas to develop two new versions of your product: a no-frills less expensive model and a bells-and-whistles premium product.
Companies have to innovate to stay competitive, and they have to collaborate with other organisations to innovate effectively. Open innovation directly links to SMEs’ position in the value chain and its value creating relationships with partners.
Collaboration with partners who you’ve worked with for a long time can be more efficient as you already know how you work together. Working on shared problems you will come up with the best solutions. Trust is important but being completely open gives you the best chance of success.
There are also open innovation opportunities designed to provide small business owners with access to resources in a low-risk way. Programs run by business associations encourage small businesses to open up and collaborate with external parties in a trusted environment. There are various government grants, vouchers and assistance programs that can help you start, run and grow your business. Check out the Business Victoria website for opportunities.
Universities are keen to engage with business owners to develop real-world solutions to substantial business issues. CSIRO runs a national SME Connect team connecting Australian SMEs with Australia’s research sector. This facilitates and enables innovation-driven partnerships through funding, support and resources.
Students can add value to your business via a formal work placement or a summer project, with programs matching tertiary students to businesses to solve technology problems.
If you don’t know where to start you could engage an innovation advisor who can work with you to identify some opportunities that can boost your business. They can support your innovative projects by providing contacts and market opportunities. Some can also provide guidance on government grants and navigate the research and development tax incentive that provides a tax benefit to companies to help offset some of the cost of conducting eligible research.
Making innovation stick
Be bold and open to new ideas
Involve various types of people
Empower your staff to contribute and be rewarded
Invite your customers to create their ideal product
Plan how to take these ideas into action
Change is a process, so include everyone and allow time
Remember innovation can be uncomfortable, but if you are open to change it leads to growth.