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Open Innovation is the foundation of an inclusive economy reboot

Andrew Barrie

“Innovation does not just change our lives, it is how we make a living… We are seeing the pooling of research, of risk, and the potential for breakthroughs… that only happen when we bring everyone together.” Barack Obama 2013

Innovation appears everywhere - from Government strategies, to corporate mission statements. Yet truly open innovation is rare. Is it an elixir that evaporates when bottled?

Truly open innovation exists when silos are broken, and when we gain insights from those outside of our ecosystem.

Open innovation is at the heart of Europe & Scotland’s economic strategy. Over the past couple of years, Government agencies, recent consultations, leading players and commentators and cities advocate for a place where we all have a part to play.

Yet, we struggle to capture open innovation in a way that works and has impact. 

Covid and lockdown could undermine the ambition of open innovation. Without the places to gather, work, learn or play, we can become isolated. We miss the conversations, find it harder to build trust, and struggle to see the bigger picture.

The pandemic has shown us how we can operate differently. The way scientists have coordinated vaccine work or communities self-organised in the face of crisis are examples of a dynamic, collaborative way of innovating.

These reflect a more open approach to innovation. One where we recognise the need to collaborate broadly and we are more focused on collective change and impact. 

As we emerge from our Covid deep freeze attention will now turn to how we rebuild our worlds. We and our Governments will move from the controlled, suppressed chains of public health safety to a dynamic, urgent and highly creative environment with innovation at its heart.

Community Lab has been a project in the making for the past few years. We’ve been collaborating with various stakeholders about the challenges they face, and using their insights to help shape Community Lab.

These insights have helped us determine our objective - to facilitate truly open innovation in Scotland.

Truly open innovation is where:

  • Collective knowledge and action are harnessed to build ideas, address challenges and identify opportunities
  • Collaboration is unlocked through discovery and breaking down silos.

We expect the outcome of this to be better ideas, quicker results, more action and an unexpected game-changers.

The conditions needed for open innovation:

Creating the conditions for open innovation is not easy. It requires a different approach and mindset to that which is typical in companies and universities. Some of the key considerations include:

  1. Self-Organisation & Grass Roots. Tapping the energy, passion and even self-interest of individuals is key. Too often, we see approaches which are top-down. We also see people turning to Government for the answers, when perhaps the answer is to empower those with knowledge or interest. We argue that we need to embrace the chaotic creativity of self-organisation.
  2. Looking Outside Our Community. Building great ideas and developing robust solutions are team games. They need triangulation of thought, left-field perspectives, different approaches and depth of experience. And yet it can be easier to operate in silos. In times of crisis, like Covid, we revert to our trust groups, those who are like us, who can sympathise who are our echo chambers. We now need to break walls and merge silos.
  3. Curiosity & Discovery. Curiosity drives innovation. Without curiosity, we won’t seek opportunities or question ‘why’, and we don’t make the connections that can create transformational ideas to spark innovation. What curiosity needs is discovery. If we don’t have sight of what’s going on, then we have nothing to be curious about.
  4. Trust & Culture. Culture, and particularly trust, are the foundations of an environment to foster great innovation. If we can’t trust, or ask daft questions, then how can we be expected to give unconditionally, share important lessons and collectively work to a purpose? Creating these cultures is difficult. It is hard enough when we can meet or work with others. But how do we create trust in a digital world?

We’ll be pondering these questions and more on our Community Lab journey. Join us.

Community Lab is an innovation and collaboration platform for positive impact. We’re hard at work and will be launching in early 2021. Sign up below to get notified!

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