A lot of people are talking about Open Innovation. Some people are selling it. But is it really a new approach?

 The proposition of Open Innovation is working with people outside of your organisation to develop your ideas, products or services. This collaboration typically involves sharing the risks and rewards of moving from idea to commercialisation, possibly sharing IP along the way. It recognises the value of vastly increased networks and seeks to exploit that value in a positive and profitable way.

 The current market is witnessing a proliferation of businesses and agencies willing to provide insight to the tools and techniques that may be useful during the innovation process. Others are offering to guide the process and to introduce selected partners who might bring a different perspective or otherwise be useful in the collaboration.

 In reality, some sectors already have experience of collaborating with other specialists whilst developing new products and services and whilst their collaboration may look more like sub-contracting (and in some cases is exactly that), it nevertheless shares many of the characteristics. And in many cases, the need to collaborate and share IP during the development and delivery of a new product is a matter of necessity, partner power and contract rather than a matter of great vision towards a new horizon.

 It could be said that a different application of the principles of Open Innovation can be seen in many small agencies and consultancies, including the Customer Journey Consultancy, who for years have engaged associates to bring skills and experience to the mix that may not be available within the core team. In this context, collaboration typically blends creative people with expert business people for the benefit of clients without compromising IP and without sharing the risks and rewards.

Whatever your interest, the principles of Open Innovation rest in pragmatism: if you don’t have the skills in-house to develop and/or launch an idea, if you’ve tried and failed, if you have a great idea but something is missing, consider finding one or more partners from outside to help you. Choose carefully, protect as much of your IP as you can and make sure that you punch above your weight throughout the process. After all, it was your idea.