Open Minded? A Message From Founder Phil Atherton
As a business owner of an SME and having come from a large corporate I have been fortunate enough to have exposure to both ends of the business world and have seen the best and worst of both.
However, one constant throughout has been three little questions:
- Are we being efficient in how we use our time?
- How do we grow into new areas?
- Do we have the right talent for the right tasks?
Last week we soft launched Solverboard to act as a solution for these questions.
Our goal is to bring the huge potential and advantages of open innovation, ideation and more broadly, crowdsourcing, into the mainstream and to be adopted as a normal business practice.
My corporate background was in a highly innovative business with very intelligent people, huge resources, incredible IPR, best in class processes, governance and a 100,000 plus strong workforce. When this all works together, real magic happens. However, when it doesn’t, such a complex giant inevitably suffers from too many stakeholders and too much governance – compounding time, process and opinion constraints on its ability to be truly innovative, and seeing the more nimble smaller business steal its market share.
Additionally through sheer size, number of locations, different departments and potentially its culture these organisations can inadvertently prohibit the exchange of ideas, free thinking or the ability to realise good ideas leaving business innovation or improvement to the responsibility of those employed to do so and not part of the company DNA. More often than not these corporate giants were founded on their ability to innovate and they need a way to return to their roots. Problem number 1.
My move from a corporate giant of unlimited resources to a highly dynamic, lean SME was a huge difference. With less people and less resources an organisation’s intellectual capability and propensity to solve business problems and innovate becomes much more obvious.
The sheer numbers of people in a corporation means this is so diluted but in a team of 30, no matter how great they are at their jobs, if you present a new business challenge your solution is only going to be as good as the minds you have access to, and a lot of the time this won’t give you the best outcome. The adage of ‘to a man with a hammer every problem looks like a nail’ comes to mind.
One example was that we had a simple challenge – the creation of our company name. The usual brainstorm workshop ensued – you know the drill; twenty people in a room for an hour or so, Post-it notes covering every available space, only to give me a name that at best was merely OK. And as the budget holder, it gets you thinking. Twenty people, lets say 1hr at £75 per hour, double it for the downtime by not working on client work and you have £3000 of cost for an OK idea. Was it worth £3000 to me? No. Did I love the end result? No. Problem number 2.
And that’s just one business with one challenge at one particular point in time – if you scale that up by many businesses, many challenges and infinite time then the opportunities are mind-blowing.
Although Solverboard is a unique idea to us, research quickly identified the emergence of this new sector – ‘crowdsourcing’ -which had some level of profile from the subsector crowd funding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
And when I explored the competitor set back then they were very scientific and uninspiring – this has changed recently with a new line up of some great companies and quite a few British ones too. There are also some really incredible examples of companies reaping huge advantages from open innovation – think LEGO, GE, P&G, Unilever and government bodies such as Innovate UK. If they are benefiting then why can’t others?
What is really evident – at least to me – is that it’s all still isolated pockets of greatness. I consider myself to be a good representation of someone in business and back then I had no idea of these platforms. If I talk to my contemporaries now I get the feeling that nothing has changed here; outside of industry and innovation experts, people simply aren’t aware of their existence or the benefits that can be realised through this way of working.
When I talk to Innovation experts I get the sense that the belief of these platforms is still centred on product or technology innovation and not the wider sense of anything in business can be innovated to be made better.
The power of this is that application of the crowd to any business problem not only gives you the chance of a better solution, but you have the opportunity to attract or identify new talent in the process. The opportunity to co-create with your end customer base helps to provide an early proof of concept, brings them closer to the start in the marketing lifecycle and you gain the added reputational advantage of making people simply more aware of your business. Lots of significant benefits.
So what do we need from you now?
We are starting a new movement in the way businesses do business so that they can make sure they have an outlet to those three little questions. We would love you to be part of it either as solver or as a business challenger. Think of that last problem, when you had the myriad of people in the room but still didn’t have the right people to solve the issue and give it go.
We really need your help to bring Open Innovation and Solverboard into the mainstream; and we are looking for some pioneering organisations to help set our first challenges.
If you would like to be involved as one of the first challengers for our Beta launch in mid-December then please contact me by clicking here and help us make this vision a reality