Wednesday, June 8, 2016

TED Presentation on Open Innovation by our associate Lucia


Monday, March 23, 2015

Open Innovation - A chance to transform your organisation

1.  Every organisation wants to do Open Innovation.  But few succeed in doing it in the right spirit.  Issues are more related to culture rather than lack of external solutions.

2.  Best way to start is to start on projects which are new and just starting.  Get both the internal and external teams working together - exchanging ideas/solutions and knowledge.  It's amazing how everything seems to fall in place once you open your mind and start working together with common objectives.

3.  Never expect that an outside solution will fit your entire problem as it is.  It rarely happens.  Typically the Open Innovation solution needs to be integrated with custom solutions before it can be presented.  Hence budget in time and money for this crucial integration piece.

4.  Success of all open innovation initiatives should be measured only by one simple question - Would we have thought of this if we have not gone the open innovation route?  Most companies would continue their open innovation initiatives if it was truly measured on this parameter.  Real successes will come further down the line when the entire engine is well oiled but that will take time and you got to keep the faith.

5.  The real strength of open innovation solutions are generally hidden.  Most leaders in organizations only view the solution as it is and see if it meets their criteria.  However they generally miss the thought process behind the solution. Mature organizations evaluate the thought process more than the actual solution.  The beauty of open innovation is that it exposes different angles to the problem at hand usually in unrestricted ways.

In summary - companies should view open innovation as an opportunity - to get diverse thought processes and ideas from experts all over the world.  In today's globalized world, it is not just a lost opportunity if companies are not doing it but could also be the reason why they need to play catch up with their competitors tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Congratulations! to the winners (Recent contest at ideaken)


Monday, August 18, 2014

Crowdsourcing for Competitive Intelligence

Most companies keep track of competitors, – be it new product launches or their strategic initiatives.  They also hire external consultants who are knowledgeable to prepare Strength / Weaknesses / Opportunities / Threats (SWOT) for all of their competitors.

Given this background, let’s ask a question – can crowdsourcing be used to achieve this activity?  I was exploring this thought over the last few days. Let us examine this in more detail:

Crowdsourcing relies on distributed expertise and experts. 

The inputs that you are seeking are of high level and of a strategic nature, this is good as experts are able to contribute their opinions freely.

The reward for these challenges needs some experimentation before we get it right.  Since these questions are strategic by nature and experts are typically industry veterans, we need to have a model of paying for expertise by the hour to begin with. 

It is important to ensure that any confidential agreements are not breached while engaging with us.  So for example - experts who are currently in the roll of our competitors should not be approached or invited.  We are mainly looking for ex-employees or retired folks who have expertise to share based on their past experience.

So let us look at how this will translate in practice with an example:

Let us assume you are in charge of the Automobile Manufacturing business for cars.  You are interested in knowing how supply chain issues or best practices are implemented in your factory environment which results in efficient operations. 

You could put up a challenge clearing inviting experts from supply chain domain who have expertise in running car operations.  They can be either independent consultants or retired folks but should not be employed currently by your reputed competitors (Can mention names if particular).

Once the challenge is ready and communicated to the outside world, you should have a mechanism of screening and selecting experts. Since it is the internet and given the nature of the challenges, we should be prepared with a process to identify relevant profiles and eliminate the rest.  The standard way of achieving this is through the use of screening questions which are designed to weed out the non-relevant experts. (Preferably with a thank you note).


Once you find the relevant expert, engage with them to understand their standard consulting rates per hour and ideally agree on the number of hours this consulting engagement would need to meet the requirements.  Also have a clear understanding on what you are expecting out of this transaction.

These two considerations will lead you to a smooth transaction on both sides.  You can also have a standard set of terms and conditions which you both sign upfront before you start the engagement defining the scope of the engagement and any other terms of reference.  It is best to review the first set of terms and conditions with the legal team to avoid any surprises but over a period of time, it will be standard.

Once the assignment is completed and signed off, it is important to document the findings and more importantly review the new knowledge gained with an open mind and see how you can tweak (if required) and incorporate in your company environment. 

ideaken helps companies set up continuous competitive intelligence cell at your company using a crowdsourcing model.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

New kind of Competitive Advantage for a RFP response.

You already know about Product, Support, Cost or a Geographic proximity related Competitive Advantages. You will most probably use the right advantages and value propositions while responding to a typical RFP. But there is a new kind of Competitive Advantage used by the large to medium organizations, and it is about Crowdsourcing the expert or niche inputs from outside of your company, just in time, and make your proposal stand out. Let’s elaborate using a walk through example.

You head the presales unit for a company, your primary source of new business is via responding to the RFPs from the clients around the world, who belong to diverse industries and domains & Geographies.

You receive one such RFP. The team does the initial analysis and comes up with the list of expertise needed to prepare winning proposal, along with the list of questions to be ask the RFP submitter.

Best way to have a competitive advantage is to be really good in the Industry and the domain this  RFP belongs and also understand the requirement well. But there are two issues, one is the availability of right resources at your end, two you still might have only the high level understanding of the problem, industry and domain of this RFP.

The route most of the presales people follow in such a scenario is talk GENERIC, talk at HIGH LEVEL, talk what can be neither right nor wrong! Or still worst, just Copy/Paste from previous proposal. Only issue with such approach is there are too many vendors who will take this approach.



Instead, imagine, you have a vendor who can Securely and anonymously crowd source just in time expert  inputs (Telephonic, Web, Email). With this newly acquired knowledge your proposal response or consulting deliverable would stand apart in terms of..

a) Localized industry & environmental know-how.
b) Knowledge of real issues and hence possible proposed solutions approaches.
c) Your confidence that you are on the same page with your client

We at ideaken help your company implement this approach and bring in noticeable increase in the quality of your RFP responses.

We have finished working on more than 120 projects, and have delivered increased success in consulting assignments and improved RFP win ratio by 5-25%.  

Contact us to discuss our “Competitive Advantage” service for your company today.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Planning an Innovation Competition?

So, you have decided to hold an innovation competition and get some creative ideas from experts all over the world, or from specific communities of interest; or you might be using it as an indirect marketing tool to create awareness of your product.

The biggest issue I see with some of the innovation competitions, is the expectation the companies have from participants in terms of understanding long and complex jargon, so much that what they want participants to do almost gets lost in the long description. So, having a clear ask is a key, but that does not mean you cannot spice it up. Titles like “Your chance to design for your Olympic hero” or “Ever thought you would have a green idea?” can do the trick.

I believe whoever runs the innovation competition does not have an expectation to really get to a breakthrough innovation using the entries they get; but if they do, then they most probably, will not succeed. However; if they have expectations to find the ingredients, ideas, starting point of the thoughts which eventually result in some sort of innovation then they are on a right track.

Have you used innovation competition for marketing? If not, then you must. Companies are using it to cover many aspects of marketing. When someone is running an innovation competition, the first impression it sends out to the market is that the company believes in innovation. This subtle but very powerful message, then can take on a role of engaging the curious population; on the way it creates the awareness of the product or a service and then in the last it can also end up getting some good ideas, problems, improvement suggestions; which can then be taken forward by the company to make measurable difference to the bottom line.



Open innovation competition is far more suitable for fetching real innovations into the company and has a slightly different tone, in terms of formulating the brief. It also has different ways of reaching out and engaging the participants. While innovation competition would ideally have a cash reward, open innovation would also have a mechanism to license, buy or co-develop the solutions. Pointing out this little difference; that it is good to know what your goals are and accordingly make the right selection, organize and execute.

ideaken can help in running an innovation competition for your organisation.

Monday, September 30, 2013

What does collaboration mean to you?

Collaboration is a term no organisation is ignoring in today's hyper connected and globalised world.  But the word means different things to enterprises depending on their priorities.  For some - it could mean as simple as enabling employees to work together to break silos.  For some others - it could mean breaking boundaries and enabling partners, customers and even general public to work together for a common cause.  It could be a mixture of all of this or some of this depending on the confidentiality requirements of the project.

It takes time and energy - We live in a hyper connected and a world built on instant gratification.  We expect immediate results and want to know the results of our initiatives  immediately.  Unfortunately collaboration projects are more complicated than that and takes time to show results.  While it is possible for results to show immediately in small controlled groups (for example collaborating with a group of employees), collaboration with a larger set especially those based outside your organisation takes time before it yield results.  So keep the faith!

Trust is paramount - Reflect on this.  When was the last time you revealed details to an outsider on your first meeting in an enterprise setting?  Collaboration calls for exchange of ideas and some knowledge about your corporate environment.  Due to this, it flourishes fully only when trust in either parties is established.  Though you can help build trust by creating a conducive and transparent environment, it does take time.  So do define the rules and be consistent.

Feedback is important - Since campaigns take time to show results and building trust is important, how do you keep the collaborators engaged?  One of the best ways of doing it is through continuous and regular feedback.  You need to spend your time and energy giving feedback to your collaborators and motivate them to help you.  It also conveys a message to them that you care and are serious about this.  It is also a great way to build connections and understand the pulse of your collaborators.

However small you must celebrate successes - Collaboration needs to be treated like an investment or a plant that needs to be nurtured.  You need to treat collaborators as your extended employee team and work on encouraging and celebrating even their small successes initially.  It is equally important to think from the collaborator's perspective rather than only your own.  Remember true collaboration happens only when there are win-win equations created.  One-sided relationships don't last long and will never realise the true potential of collaboration.



Involve senior management - Collaboration is a strategic initiative.  There is only so much that middle or lower managers can achieve.  Hence it pays to involve senior management and get direction from them on your future collaboration initiatives.  Ideally collaboration projects are best driven top down to ensure that the message is driven throughout the organisation.  In some cases, it also helps to show some initial success starting small to convince the top management which then helps to build the business case.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Why Collaborative Research gaining momentum?

Innovation might be the ultimate aim of R&D activities in general, at academia however focus is on education, research and ultimately the placements for their students.

R&D is a very logical one step just before one systematically innovate something; of course lot many innovations happen without any R&D at all. After visiting approximately ten prestigious academia in last six months, I have come to a conclusion that for Asian academia innovation is a good to have thing and not must have, now, that may not sound that good a news, but I don’t see anything wrong about it, especially post I put it through a perspective, perspective of if innovation is the need of hour to make things go around. Now I am not stating that innovation is not happening, I am only pointing out that it is yet to cover some distance! Which it will when non Asian countries stops innovating enough.

Collaborative research is a derivation of traditional research where the activity of research is more open for the inputs from diverse entities. It also allows a research topic to be arrived at collaboratively.

Collaborative research is gaining momentum because it aligns well with the core goals of academia viz. Education, Research and Placements. Here is how.

People are the real source of education, and when you supplement your research with diverse experiences from around the geography; you are able to relate what you read in the books far better than you would do without such interactions.

It is usually the skills like creativity, social interactions and management which makes education of any use, when you collaborate, you learn these skills.

Our education system is broad based, meaning we study bit of many things and do not go really deep into one thing. Collaborative research provides opportunity for someone not doing a full time research to slice it up and go deep into a specific topic.

Hence Collaborative research makes better education.

In today’s fast pace world, a proven technology is a outdated one, similarly if research takes too long then by the time it finishes it probably is outdated. Key is to join forces and bring it out fast.

Anything beyond a basic research needs more talent than an individual can bring in, though he or she can learn all of them but there is hardly a possibility to do so in a given time and constraints.

Ultimate aim of any research is to unearth something which is yet to be unearthed. And not every piece of knowledge is documented nor will it in the future. Collaborative research provides better changes of tabling something which is yet not tabled.

Hence Collaborative research makes better research.

Industry know how and networking are better options to get placed then another aptitude test at the campus placements. Who does not want be free from limited options placement provides?

Your rank must not be the only measure to get placed, participating in collaborative research provides additional credential which has tangible benefits during studies. For placements and beyond. 

Collaborative research provide students take the guess work out and present more realistic findings, socialise and network, but more importantly this experience prepares them to come out of the theoretical world early and fish for themselves.

Hence Collaborative research makes better placements.

Be it Basic research, Applied research, Product research or Market research, be it a long duration or short, be it for a topic of your interest or kind of, be it with monetary benefits or not so much – look out for a collaborative research opportunity.

ideaken provides opportunities for collaborative research for academia, professors, students, industry players and research institutes, please get in contact with us at contact@ideaken.com

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Crowdsourcing Pitfalls and possible Remedies

Crowdsourcing has received a fair amount of coverage in the local business circle that any business leader may be tempted to believe that he can throw most of his business challenges or creative needs to the crowd and he will get the optimum results in no time. Frankly this is far from true, and unless one is treading with cautious and right knowledge Crowdsourcing might disappoint and results in scepticism.

To sum it up – Just the way how outsourcing began few decades ago and reached current so called mature state, Crowdsourcing needs to be developed by companies with a long term vision in mind and the focus should be to identify, experiment, adapt and fine-tune strategies to derive the maximum benefit from this initiative.

Let us look at common pitfalls and their possible remedies.

Pitfall 1: Just like the dotcom snag ‘if you build it they will come’, Crowdsourcing faces a challenge in believing ‘if you ask, they will tell’

Remedy: Today the information inflow for an individual is reaching alarming high, I delete most of the things pushed to me, and try to ignore everything around what I am perusing. So, to get a slice of that attention span, you must select your target crowd. And you can do that by carefully creating a list of attributes which you think some of which an individual must have before you ask for participation. This preparation does not mean that you would have means to actually pinpoint those characteristics, but this will greatly help in rejecting avenues not to go after.

Pitfall 2: Now that I have an opportunity to ask, why settle for anything less than the sky!

Remedy: You must not make it too easy or too difficult for someone to contribute, challenge them but don't overwhelm them. Keep it too simple, but not so much that you get bombarded with so many solutions that you will struggle to separate the gems from the others.  Make it too complicated and you are bound to miss your target crowd because of their low attention spans or even overawe them. 

Pitfall 3: If I am getting a revolutionary solution then I might decide to pay something for it.

Remedy: Easiest way to get over this issue is to simulate and put yourself on other side of the equation, would you bother to spend time on something which does not promise clear evaluation and reward criteria?
Pitfall 4: We are always open for collaboration and receive great ideas, check our website there is a section for submitting an idea.

Remedy: Yes, it is nice that you have a open call open always, but barring few companies which you can count on fingers, how many of them have any ideas coming their way? Fix for this is to have a very specific challenge statement, which has clear end date, sufficient rewards, and clear promotional plan to the right crowd. 

Pitfall 5: How many ideas or solutions will I get?

Remedy: Though how many ideas or solutions you get might be a immediate need to show in the status report but see how quickly you can get on to bottom like and ask – will it be better than my current plan of getting ideas and solution, will it be less time consuming and will it cost me less.

So, there you are, do tell me if you have another interesting Crowdsourcing pitfall you have come across.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Industry academia collaboration – will Asia’s turn see it through Crowdsourcing lens?

Can there be a Crowdsourcing between Industry and Academia which is beneficial to both sides? Crowdsourcing industry - for simplicity sake can be classified into two buckets – a) Creative, and b) Innovative. Examples of creative Crowdsourcing are Voice, Picture, Video, Logo, Ads. These creative’s usually are represented by artefacts and these artefacts when protected are protected by copyrights. On the other hand innovation Crowdsourcing is mostly about ideas and solutions, which in turn if need to be protected are protectable by intellectual property rights.

As it seems, Crowdsourcing for ideas and innovation is more suitable between Industry and Academia.

However, Academia and industry are different at the core, to the extent that you can say -  academia is from Venus (Calm and collected), and Industry is from Mars (Restless and under pressure.). So most but few collaborations end up being too complex to have a mature relationship.

Just to put the term “Academia Industry Collaboration” in perspective, there are many ways academia and industry collaborates, top 3 being 1. Employment (Core reason why academia exists in this era) 2. Industrial Education (So that the point 1 above keep meeting its goal) 3. And 3rd is ideas, innovation and R&D, we will primarily talk around  3rd point and argue why it is now Asia’s turn, so in this context we had defined academia industry collaboration as "A common ground, where academia lends the conceptualization & generalization skills, and the industry provides the practical reality in which the conceptualization can be rooted."

So why say ‘Asia’s turn’ -  is because US and Europe has done considerably well in this area so far, I see following three as what really is different around academia industry tangle among US and Asia.

1) In US, majority of the academia funding comes from the Industry, which is on decline now as per my  partner in the US. It is slightly reverse in Asia, where most of the funding comes from Government, and as per the data available - funding from Industry is increasing in Asia.  Funding from industry brings in far more focus on being relevant to the real needs of people and therefore the better innovation outcome.

2) In US, primary mission of Academia since pre war era till now is to develop skill for local industry. While in Asia academia is geared to provide skill for the best possible market in the world (which is USA! for now). You see Asian local industry would be reluctant to fund something which is not going to be of their area of interest.

3) In US, the origin and basis of education system is relatively new, not more than 200 years or so. While in Asia, education has ancient roots and was tightly linked to religion & spirituality, which  usually is kept delinked and independent from the business world. In Asia lot of people still think that a professor cannot have a business of his own. I am still not sure how much of a commercial angle to an education is right and where it starts hurting!

These being differences, the real big reason why US still leading the academia industry collaboration is because the ecosystem now already in place, it is no longer dependent of above differences. It is an accepted protocol and kind of a norm to have association with academia.  

Few years back, when my cousin was looking for a place to open his garment showroom, he took me around to see few places. Agent showed us 5-6 places that afternoon, and I could see that all the places my cousin seem to have liked where around already existing garment showrooms. So being in a business of ideas, I asked him why don’t you look for a place, where there are no garment showroom at all. On which, he replied, garment buyers look for a place where they can get a choice, where they can park the vehicle once and walk into 3-4 or even more places, so getting a place where there is already similar business works better. Since then whenever I am in a marketplace in any city in India, I do not fail to notice the cluster of similar businesses be it garment, furniture or niche commodity like Marble for home construction all located in same area.

For the same reason, in US and in Europe (Especially in Silicon Valley), you would find starts ups in and around the academia. And if you are the one who yet do not have an academia linkage then  during your next coffee conversation at the local coffee shop, you most probably will end up having one.

So when we talk about Asia’s turn, it is not about increasing  industry academia collaboration, it is also not about being more innovative, but is about making sure if we have enough ingredient for a ecosystem to thrive, most importantly remove obvious roadblocks. While we do this needful, we them must sit back, if industry academia collaboration is beneficial to both (which usually is) then it will take place without anyone doing anything about it!