4th SA Innovation Summit
September 2, 2011 Editor 0
The annual SA Innovation summit has just ended in South Africa. The event has engaged the top echelon of SA’s leading minds in academia, industry and government to support innovation in South Africa the past three years. This year saw 50 speakers l 35 workshops l 12 presentations. We are reproducing an article by Maggie Fikkert from RIIS – The Research Institute for Innovation and Sustainability.
Innovation models are paused in the ‘not invented here’ syndrome.
Article by Maggie Fikkert.
From Apartheid to the world cup, yet South African companies still think they have all the brains in the world, in spite of the fact that great minds think outside. Since the end of the apartheid era in 1994, South African organisations have been in an ongoing process of transformation, yet their innovation processes have paused in the apartheid era of “we know it all” and “we have the cleverest people in the world”.
More than two decades ago the apartheid regime in South Africa crumbled under the onslaught of a range of pressures, which certainly excluded the power of minds from outside. It is doubtful whether SA companies think they can obtain solutions to their challenges from brains outside of the organisation, as their innovation processes are still demonstrating the conservative approach of “innovate by yourself and employ the best people in the world”.The question I beg to answer is “Why do we think that we have the cleverest people in the world?” when it is obvious that the power is in numbers, numbers of brains in the world having solutions to a multitude of world problems.
Organisations are still saddled with thought patterns resulting from the past: we had to innovate it all and we still think we can do it in isolation, even under the onslaught of global pressures.
So what is it like to open up to the big “bad” world? Open Innovation, in short, refers to a set of defined processes and engagements with virtual and physical networks to discover, isolate and implement innovative ideas, technologies, products and capabilities from outside organisations to address identified problems or challenges.
More comprehensive descriptions show that open innovation is a paradigm that assumes that an organisation can and should use external, as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, to advance their technologies. The central idea behind open innovation is that in a world of widely distributed knowledge, companies cannot afford to rely entirely on their own research but should instead buy or license processes or inventions (e.g. patents) from other companies.
When an organisation operates within the traditional boundaries of “not invented here syndrome” and zero sum game theory, the idea that ideas can come from anywhere in the world is hard to digest! Most organisations in South Africa are still hanging on to the tangible R&D foundation, believing that clever employees from inside the organisation can come up with the cleverest ideas in the world to solve all their problems.
Much focus is placed on internal collaboration, acquisition and product portfolios. Contrary to competitive believe, these are all dealing with the symptoms rather than the core problem, so lets get back to core TQM principles… Let’s solve the core problem and stop concentrating our resources on the symptoms! Could this fallacy lead to curtail the sustainability and growth of organisations? A contrary example is Proctor and Gamble (P&G).
In the early days of the year 2000, P&G noticed that their “invent it themselves” model of innovation was no longer sustainable and that P&G had to fast track the rapid changes of the outside world. It was no longer possible to be able to know it all and do it all so quickly themselves, faster than the ever evolving outside world. Technologies were exploding rapidly across industries, so quick, that the smaller number of minds within the organisation was finding it difficult to keep up with the surging technological pace.
Smaller players across industries became hungry in the eyes of competition, eager to share their know-how and IP to the giants for survival in the competitive jungle. According to a Harvard Business Review (2006) P&G decided to hunt for 50% of their ideas in this open jungle.
NineSigma, the largest Open Innovation organisation in the world, was borne from the P&G Connect and Develop model of innovation to find connections from outside of the organisation to solve problems or leverage opportunities for the organisation. NineSigma provides a platform for organisations and facilitates the Open Innovation process by deploying a technical problem across their vast global network in a quest to find a solution.
The problem gets solved or an opportunity is leveraged by some of the cleverest minds from outside the organisation, because Great minds think outside as coined by Maggie Fikkert from the Research Institute for Innovation and Sustainability (RIIS). What about the Intellectual Property rights? In open innovation, to own the IP becomes less important than to control the IP. The game of IP protection is more important when one becomes good at open innovation.
You cannot avoid the entire game with statements like: “It all belongs to us” you rather start to be serious about controlling what is truly important in your IP portfolio. The time is ripe for South African organisations to hunt in the jungle of clever minds, to solve their problems or leverage their opportunities, to fast track their innovation processes and move beyond the old fashioned ”not invented here syndrome” of innovation stagnation.
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