New collaboration efforts on innovation are usually almost exclusively put on initiatives, partnerships or projects with some other companies or external agents as providers, distributors, developers, academics or even customers. But often there is another area where to try to make the most of collaboration to innovate in a way that is easier, less risky and many times as fruitful: within the companies themselves.
Co-innovation between different departments or with employees not directly linked with innovation functions it’s still unusual. Maybe one of the reasons is because it’s kind of counterintuitive to think that anything else is needed to foster collaboration once you hire talent and put it under the same roof with common goals. But in practice, things do not work this way.
We have already some experience initiating and managing processes within companies of different sorts and from different sectors in order to create innovation teams with employees never before asked to think and implement new ideas. It’s not an easy task. Tools and methodology are needed. It is also very important for companies trying to tap into own talent for innovation to constantly explore what is going on beyond the walls of their sites, areas of expertise, business model and industry to avoid the syndrome that make internal ideas often biased by a reapplication of knowledge, methods, and solutions which hinders creativity and market sensitivity.
But outputs are positive and important. For start, a first experience that acts as a necessary spark for a culture and mindset change in order to create a needed “company’s second operating system”, the one in charge of the future of the organizations. Co-innovate internally is the best first step and learning & testing way to co-innovate with external agents afterwards.
There are many ways to foster internal collaboration to innovate. Siemens is one of the big global companies that puts lots of efforts into their innovation goals and they have lots of initiatives on open innovation, co-creation and co-ideation within the company itself. This article describes two of the tools the company is using successfully for such a goal: TechnoWeb, an online platform that can be used by all Siemens employees worldwide to share ideas and research trends; and an Open Co-Ideation competition that invites researchers from different departments to share their knowledge.
TechnoWeb and the Open Co-Ideation competition exemplify new approaches for the internal generation of ideas, some of them already turned into successful company products as the article shows. But more importantly, they are causing Siemens’ corporate culture to change. As Christoph Krois, responsible for innovation management at Siemens, explains: “It’s no longer a case of my knowledge, your knowledge, or my precious secrets, because as we proved with this tools and processes, knowledge is the only thing that increases if you share it”.