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Feb 15, 2018

A guest article by Bastian Unterberg, CEO & cofounder of the open innovation platform jovoto

Innovation as a Service: Crowdstorming

Five years ago, few people would have expected Google and Apple to become competitors of the German automotive industry in any near future. How many grocery retailers would already have identified Amazon as potential competition five years ago?

Bastian Unterberg, CEO & cofounder of jovoto

Bastian Unterberg: CEO & cofounder of jovoto

For large organizations in particular, the increasing speed at which the digital transformation is changing markets and competition represents a major challenge. Their ability to analyze converging technologies and societal changes accurately – which means looking well beyond the limits of their core competence – and make decisions that are consistent with that analysis is undermined by established structures and internal routines. Instead of cultivating a culture of innovation focused on tomorrow’s gamechanger, they meet the growing pressure to innovate with classical management practices that are, more often than not, centered around making existing resources marginally more efficient.

Marginal improvements, however, will not be enough to weather paradigm-shifting changes. The search for answers within the company itself usually also marks the beginning of a shift towards more openness, which is often driven by doubts about its internal innovation culture.

Accelerator programs, startup days, company builders, innovation labs, venturing, digital labs, experience journeys to Silicon Valley or even hackathons – there is a multitude of new interfaces that facilitate contact with innovation outside of one’s own organization. Yet these explorative measures are rarely connected between them, and even less frequently make up a holistic strategy. Almost never do they drive an overarching transformation process that spans across the entire organization, stimulates its culture of innovation and ultimately helps it to become more agile.

For more than four years now, we have been collaborating successfully with Henkel to make innovation processes more open. To do so, we use our global online platform jovoto and focus on solving practical challenges throughout the innovation pipeline. From co-creation with millennials to gain insights, through marketing benefits for a given product line, new packaging and all the way to striking communication ideas, the scope of tasks we have tackled together spans across the fields of marketing, product, packaging and even service innovation.

We work in a clearly structured manner: Upon request, we check within just a few days whether a particular task is suited to our open innovation process and whether we have people with the right skillset in our crowd, which currently includes nearly 100,000 creative professionals around the world. As a preferred vendor, we have clearly established legal terms and conditions for collaboration, so projects can start soon after a short technical assessment is completed. The fastest projects yield their first results after as little as a week, but even more complex projects are finished within four weeks at most.

Henkel and jovoto have already implemented 27 projects in this manner, with more than 1,300 talented individuals designing over 1,400 solutions together and then discussing and evaluating these in around 24,000 peer-to-peer discussions. As a result, about 90 concepts have been licensed for Henkel. These collaboratively developed solutions are now proving themselves on the market: For example, one project to redesign the packaging for Somat dishwasher tablets didn’t just yield a broad spectrum of insights, but also produced the design that has been representing Henkel’s environmental consciousness and brand identity on the market since April 2016.

The success rate speaks for itself. When a traditional DAX-listed institution meets a young technology company, both partners learn from each other. The projects have also generated massive quantities of data that now form the basis for a holistic “Innovation-as-a-Service” model. This data doesn’t simply help identify the best creative minds in the crowd, but rather tells us who is likely to deliver the best results for a given problem, topic or brand. What you get is a talent pool that becomes more and more efficient and productive every time it is activated.

This kind of “Innovation-as-a-Service” model truly has the potential to transform the organization’s entire value chain and fuel its culture of innovation with external creativity.