If I asked you to assess the knowledge and skills of the people you work with, would you say your company boasts the smartest workforce in the world? Even if it’s a resounding yes, and you're blessed with the most talented employees, do you think they’re organised and mobilised to solve your most complex business problems – both now and in the future? What about when AI fully kicks-in or disruptive start-ups muscle into your space? Or prices skyrocket to the extent that certain resources are no longer available to your organisation?
Whatever trends are teetering on the horizon, there’s no doubt the global business landscape is changing – and doing so at a rapid pace – but it’s not all doom and gloom. Our ability to create, innovate and reinvent ourselves, our work and our lives is part of what makes us human. We adapt to survive and thrive. We solve problems, tackle challenges and come up with solutions to progress and move forward.
How many of us, though, do so alone?
No wo/man's an island
In the same way we might take a course to increase our digital skills, attend a fitness bootcamp to lose weight or seek out support during hard times, we can apply similar methods to solving our most challenging business dilemmas. By turning to people outside of the organisation and working with a variety of external stakeholders, we can source a richness of knowledge and skills, sitting well beyond company boundary lines, that we didn’t have access to before.
Just as we often need help to grow, develop and get to the next stage in our own lives, businesses need help, too, to gain or retain competitive advantage in the marketplace. From open innovation and crowdsourcing, to developing open talent models – the opportunities are endless – but how far do we need to journey into this new world of co-creation?
According to Sajeev Nair, Head of Global ADM Group Operations, Zurich Insurance: “Every company will need to develop a gig-economy strategy, just as they’ve had to develop a social media or mobile strategy in the past. Companies that do this now will outpace those that don’t.”
Gig-economy or crowdsourcing; whatever you call it, it’s about gaining access to world-class talent, but is this taking it far enough? Yes, being able to utilise freelance talent via Fiverr or Upwork is important for the future of work but will it help organisations solve their most pressing business challenges? Or generate the kind of value that organisations need to reach strategic goals?
The power of the crowd
Imagine a world where you can connect and collaborate with people you never knew existed before to solve problems and generate ideas to drive your business forward. That’s open innovation. It enables us to find people (academics, experts, specialists and SME’s, etc.) from around the world that we don’t currently know and work with them to accentuate the strength of our existing workforce. It empowers us to problem solve and view needs and problems from a different perspective, by combing different locations, cultures, backgrounds and areas of expertise.
Using open innovation to co-create with different groups of people, creates value for existing departments and teams. It enables businesses to do more and operate better, smarter and faster in a shorter timeframe. And we’re talking about anything from developing a new sweat-wicking material or improving cancer treatments, to creating process improvements and cost efficiencies.
We may only get to hear of the most glamorous, life-changing innovation stories but the myriad solutions being created every day under the radar is a testament to our ability to evolve. Given we’re in the midst of a huge socio-economic shift in how business problems are solved, one thing’s for sure – the value of open innovation and co-creation is only set to grow as the power of the crowd is truly understood. Yes, it can be hard to shift from an inside-out to an outside-in mindset when it comes to innovation but once mastered, millions of possibilities will unfold.