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Open innovation environments offer the most conductive conditions for the free contribution of ideas. That is why the people responsible for such environments prefer not to established a fixed set of participation rules that might inhibit creativity and out of the box, or more disruptive, ideas.

2016-09-05-roman-drits-barnimages-004-768x512Offering a tool for participation is not enough, one must also offer the keys to using them and encourage their use among users.

Other times, however, project managers for open innovation initiatives prefer to focus on a specific issue, while embracing a transparent, democratic and creative environment for contributions and innovating in collaboration with all their stakeholders.

Specific questions for specific solutions.

Raising challenges for one or several collectives and receiving proposed solutions spontaneously is one of the traditional resources used by Innovation Managers in companies. Different participation channels such as digital communities–for example, innovation management software–may be used to gather all these ideas.

MIT raised five methodological keys in a recent article, referred to as the “theory of the five Ps”, to extract the best participating talent in processes of this type. Project Managers, take note:

– Problems, and the need to identify them beforehand. If they are big, a customary strategy can be to break them up into smaller and more approachable units. By viewing problems ‘from the ground’, one can consider them from less maximalist perspectives. To continue with the aviation metaphor, if we want a more energy-efficient plane we should establish two areas of work: the aerodynamics of the plane and the performance of its engines.

– Prizes, as remuneration–not necessarily economic–to stimulate participation. The most ambitious challenges are more attractive because there is prestige implicit in them. Public and intellectual acknowledgement is key to encourage participation in challenges. According to MIT, the use of sponsors also helps.

– Participants: who are they? What do they do? The idea is to measure how open an open innovation initiative is. For example, is the challenge also open to your suppliers? The more open the initiative is, the greater the wealth and diversity of solutions proposed, according to MIT.

– Processes, and how to define them to bring out the best in participants through challenges, and stimulate positive competition among them. The idea is to build, and for that to be possible we need a common environment, methodology and objectives. All are ingredients for constructive collaboration, based on the principle that strength comes in numbers.

– Platforms, used to deploy this participative environment. Technology allows users to connect and share ideas and knowledge in a way that is simple and dynamic. MIT also highlights the fact that large companies can outsource the IT element of these projects to take advantage of specific expertise.

Innovation, an issue for everyone.

Along with these 5 keys, MIT also stresses the importance of assigning a CCO (Chief Competition Officer) to lead any open innovation project. MIT also supports an “open to all” philosophy. Implication in the project should be transversal, but also from the top down.

Believing is the first step towards doing.