Innovation is on top of the agenda of every single executive across the globe and yet, the output of the innovation effort remains unclear. How Innovation Consulting in the Open Innovation space can help achieve real, tangible results?
Get insights on how Innovation Consulting can be used as a catalyst for innovating faster, for optimizing your resources and for expanding your innovation ecosystem with deep external networks.
Innovation Consulting and Thought Leadership
Innovation is where business and creativity meet to generate new growth opportunities for all stakeholders.
To get there, companies embark on multiple activities, initiatives and efforts that when combined together create an innovation journey. At the heart of the journey lies the willingness to foster an innovation culture across the organization, thus to provoke a cultural change. However, an innovation mindset is not just widely spread among employees or easy to unleash. Usually a core team is at the forefront of the journey and engages in activities with the objective to win quick on several fronts and show the relevance of what is engaged.
Yet innovation teams may tend to stay in what is already known, whether it is in their field of expertise, or their closed networks (suppliers, customers) or their way to approach issues.
Bringing on board innovation consultants can shake the status quo. Innovation Consulting can bring a different experience and perspective on the business and on the innovation space. Consultants may have less of cognitive biases for they are not necessary experts in the clients’ field. They can provide a fresh look at the company’s situation against that of the competition or more important, against what happens in other adjacent industries. Using Innovation consultants as thought leaders to profit from their experience with other companies, industries and sectors can be a great way to trigger new initiatives and projects within your company.
When it comes to choosing the innovation consulting firm(s) to work with it may be difficult as there is a wide variety of innovation consulting services, just to name a few: internal ideation management, front end of innovation, implementation of external solutions, strategic thinking and insights gathering, innovation methodology such as design thinking and rapid prototyping, new business models, building a global ecosystem, scouting for new technologies, start-ups, expertise, partners, etc. There are also many areas and topics where innovation is at stake in a company. This is why companies tend to work with many different players depending on their expertise.
Some Innovation Consulting firms can help create new products or services through innovation, either with the internal team or completely with their own means based on strategic briefs from the client. However their main objective remains to help a company articulate and engage into an innovation journey based on a clear business strategy, while fostering an innovative ecosystem within the organization. Innovation Consulting is like a toolbox where you pick and test different elements to create your own innovation ecosystem and journey. Innovation consultants give you access to that toolbox and help you choose the best tools for your company.
Let’s take as an example of Innovation Consulting those firms working in the Open Innovation space and specifically, helping their clients expand their internal ecosystem to a broader one externally.
Open Innovation is not a new idea. Even way before the very words were coined together by the Harvard Professor Henry Chesbrough in 2003, most companies had already embarked on Open Innovation activities. Indeed, companies have always worked closely with some of their natural partners, suppliers, customers, local universities and research labs to develop new ideas, products and services.
In today’s fast-moving and changing world there is yet more pressure for companies to accelerate their innovation. Complexity of technology, sustainability, digitalization, competition coming from unexpected sectors, to name a few impactful factors, force any organization to rethink their innovation strategy, if not define a radically new one. Companies can no longer just increase their resources indefinitely, they’d rather build more collaborations by expanding their ecosystem and identifying the resources they need to achieve results.
Working only within the existing ecosystem keeps the company in its comfort zone. Corporate innovation can be slow, circling around known territories. Any organism wanting to rejuvenate needs to bring in fresh blood. It is unlikely that major innovation advancement will come from the same players. This is why it becomes imperative to accelerate and open up.
How to do so?
Innovation Consulting to Optimize Your Resources in Your Open Innovation Initiatives
Needless to say that operating a company on a daily basis is a full task in itself. There are so many things to take care, e.g. making sure that production works in a smooth way, that products are delivered on time and flawless, that clients are satisfied, that new clients are identified and so forth, that there is little time and resources left to think about innovation and what can be next. Innovation is often a fuzzy concept, with no tangible role in the operational life of a company. It may even seem not to align with what a company is supposed to do, i.e. manufacture, deliver, sell and make a profit. This is probably why innovation is still shown in many corporate websites and annual reports in a separate section, where it should probably be an inherent part of everything a company does. Instilling an innovation mindset at all levels is still a challenge.
However, it is of course the task of management along with strategy, marketing, R&D, innovation teams to work together and imagine the future. Once a business strategy is laid out, it has to be translated into an operational strategy and set as an innovation journey.
In our Open Innovation case, part of the innovation journey as seen before will consist of building new ecosystems by accessing external networks.
That’s when Innovation consulting comes into play. In any innovation consulting mission, there’s a huge part of the work that benefits from consultants’ experience with other customers, own expertise and resources. Looking for a new market to explore? There’s a market research to conduct, and perhaps with new ways to access information and new sectors to explore that would never be part of an internal work. Willing to find a different business model or new opportunities for your services? It will be necessary to benchmark what works or not, identify disruptive new players and then test the different models. Finding new technology and science that can industrially scale? Exploring new geographies in search of partners, opportunities and ? Identifying promising start-ups across the globe?
Companies themselves tend to engage in these activities. They allocate time and valuable resources to do so. But are they well equipped for doing so? Is that what they have to focus on in the first place? Can these valuable resources be used in more value-added work?
Indeed, the personnel dedicated to finding opportunities or scouting the world know very well their company’s business, products, strategy and processes. They usually have strong internal networks. Yet they hardly use that knowledge when it comes to internalizing a great solution. They could be the ones to integrate the new technology and monitor the resulting project. A company’s expertise is in its business and how to run it, how to operate it and how to come up with a solid strategy to grow over the years. Any detected opportunity to fulfill the strategy requires to be internalized and adjusted to the internal processes, methods and culture.
This is where innovation consulting can help. Focusing the company’s brightest resources to increase value by internalizing innovative technologies found outside seem to be a smarter way to go. Outsourcing the finding of such innovative technologies to well-equipped and expert Innovation Consulting companies seems another smart way to go and potentially a win-win situation.
As mentioned, digitalization is one of the driving forces changing the business today. Some companies do not have any expertise in the field; yet, they have to do something. Will you allocate your own resources and time to actually search for what could help you drive the change, or would you rather focus your efforts, once a couple of solution providers have been found, to integrate the solution within your business? That’s why Open Innovation consultants exist. They know how to structure a problem, they have the teams and global reach and network to find faster, in a more agile way innovative solutions. It can let you focus on the part which you are expert in: internalizing the solution once it is found and creating value from it.
As a temporary conclusion, this short example on Open Innovation can at least show why in some instance it may make sense to carefully allocate your resources in order to maximize value.
Innovation consulting is a diversified and eclectic world, which is why companies can feel a bit hesitant when trying to choose a partner to help.
The key is to frame your need as best as you can: do you need a long term or a short-term partner? Is it for a one-off project or rather for an innovation journey? Is it focused on one aspect of innovation like implementing Design Thinking or on a more global need, like structuring your innovation ecosystem, externally or internally?
Depending on your conclusions, do a first selection of firms. Consultants, whatever their expertise, build on their past experiences to enrich their practice. Thus, to make a choice, meet them and ask them about their case studies. You’ll see if those past experiences can serve your needs and help your company grow.
 For a brief history of Open Innovation please read this article at https://www.ninesigma.com/open-innovation-basics/