“Today’s challenges require the creativity of entire networks. Open innovation allows people to collaborate at scale, and that’s changing how the world solves problems” (IDEO CEO Tim Brown). IDEO makes its mark on the world as a global design and innovation consultancy well known for designing the first mouse for Apple and the first laptop computer. IDEO uses design thinking as the core approach in product development transforming the design process from “designing consumer products to designing consumer experiences”. The role of open innovation is critical in design thinking, a process that leads to generate and select ideas through user feedback, and multiple product/service interactions.
OpenIDEO launched in 2010, served as a spin off crowdsourcing platform of IDEO with the mission to gather people globally to collaboratively generate ideas to the world’s social challenges. OpenIDEO adopted the “contest” type of crowdsourcing by administering a series of social impact challenges. Consequently, OpenIDEO expanded their idea generation capacity of 700 in-house designers to the wider network through the process of design thinking. Harnessing the digital world, OpenIDEO leveraged more than 100,000 members on the platform to openly engage in the process—full-filling the IDEO’s mission to be impactful globally and adhering to the IDEO’s management process of product development – design thinking and open innovation.
These global social impact challenges became OpenIDEO’s short-term strategy in its management and product development process. These challenges addressed a wide range of social issues from partnering with United Nation Population Fund in sourcing ideas to improve access to quality reproductive health education; to partnering with the Australian Aid Agency to improve educational for youth. The process takes 3-5 months where community members in the open innovation platform share ideas, get feedback, and continuously refining the ideas. At the end, OpenIDEO team and the sponsored organization select the top ideas for funding.
The experiences in conducting these challenges provided many valuable lessons which form a building block for OpenIDEO’s medium-term plan in maximizing the effectiveness of using crowdsourcing in the process of product development – expanding the areas of work, as well as partner organizations. The variability of ideas produced from the open innovation platform may be used to demonstrate to companies, by partnering with OpenIDEO, they are not constraint by their internal capability to generate ideas and have the ability to leverage “mass intelligence to solve problems at an affordable price” . The OpenIDEO platform serves to convent actors, interest groups, and funders working creatively towards similar goals.
The main goal of an open innovation platform is to democratize innovation, OpenIDEO does its job well in soliciting ideas from the public, in the idea selection process, however, the process itself becomes constrained by the team and sponsored organization to choose only a few from hundreds of ideas submitted. This, in a sense, can paralyze the ideas that are not chosen. To ensure that other ideas are also developed, in the short-term, OpenIDEO can become a bridge to pull in more foundation partners to support the ideas that are not chosen, and in the medium term develop an ecosystem to match skills and funding not limited to networks of institutional funders but also individuals through crowd-funding.
In addition, one can also argue that the focus of OpenIDEO and its partner execution becomes more invested in the idea generation process but lacking in the execution when the ideas are realized. Therefore, there is a question of commitment to those who enter the challenge as a competition versus the commitment to solve and take the social challenges forward. To tackle this, in addition to evaluating ideas, OpenIDEO should also measure commitment and evaluate the performance of the individual and team beyond the idea generation stage.
Key questions remain: should the open innovation process be sourced to improve on an existing idea, which can yield higher success and commitment or should the idea be one that is revolutionary? Therefore, the tension of impact will exist between giving more value to the disruptors with revolutionary ideas who may not be committed to fully execute the idea versus those who have familiarity in the space—building on what already exists.
What is the scenario for companies to adopt an open innovation platform compared to other channels to foster creative ideas? And what are the associated risks?
 Tim Brown and Joceyln Wyatt. Design Thinking for Social Innovation. Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2010, vol. 8, no. 1
Kevin J Boudreau and Karim R. Lakhani. Using the Crowd as an Innovation Partner. Harvard Business Review April 2O13
 Darren Stevens. Crowdsourcing: Pros, Cons, and More. Hongkiat. November 1, 2018.
King, Andrew, and Karim R Lakhani. Using Open Innovation to Identify the Best Ideas . MIT Sloan Management Review , 2013, pp. 41–48, Using Open Innovation to Identify the Best Ideas .
Open Innovation From Marginal to Mainstream . NESTA, 2010, pp. 4–5, Open Innovation From Marginal to Mainstream .
The Three Billion Enterprise Crowd Sourcing and the Growing Fragmented of Work. Deloitte, 2016, pp. 9–13, The Three Billion Enterprise Crowd Sourcing and the Growing Fragmented of Work.
(Credit Article Image: Fast Company).