Stepping into the world of open innovation can be a novel experience, even for seasoned independent professionals. Success in this arena requires high levels of creativity, along with patience and the ability to roll with rejection.
Top open innovation solvers have learned a lot on the way to success. Many have found that they need to approach challenges differently than they have approached other types of work. This should not be surprising, as innovation is the name of the game, but you may find yourself discovering unconscious assumptions and ways of working that need to be broken up to craft winning solutions.
Here is some advice based on the experience of top solvers as they grew into their open innovation success.
Ignore the obvious solutions
If you have a solution idea in the first five or ten minutes of reading the challenge, you can safely assume that most if not all of your competitors came up with the same idea. To stand out from the rest, dig deeper.
Understand that the problem at hand is part of the solution
This may seem a bit obscure, but it essentially means that you need to include the problem itself in your solution. As a simple example, if the challenge is to rebrand a company, include the “old” brand in the ideas you come up with.
You do not have to be an expert in a field to participate in a challenge
9Even if you don’t have a lot of credentials in a challenge area, you still have a chance of creating winning solutions. In some cases, this lack of expertise could be a benefit as you can think differently. You don’t know “how things are done,” which frees you up to craft a truly innovative solution.
Ask clarifying questions when needed
Don’t assume that the challenge you’re handed is all you’ll get. If you need to get clarification on certain aspects, go ahead and ask.
This is not a school assignment
Avoid the urge to fill out an answer to each question as if it was an essay exam. You certainly want to make sure you cover each question but keep your idea front and center as you prepare your submission.
You win some, you lose some
While this is true of any proposal you give a client, it’s really important to keep in mind in this case. You may put a lot of work into your solution and challenge submission, and it might be daunting to lose. Contextualize the losses as “professional development” that allow you to hone your skills.
Some will get thrown back at you because they hate your idea
Sometimes an idea is too wacky. One solver told us that he has seen a challenge description change to specifically eliminate the possibility that any other solvers would come up with what he proposed! Again, consider this a learning experience and move on to the next challenge.
Pay attention to the feedback offered after every solve
The feedback you receive isn’t just another learning experience. It will help you understand what a company expects in the solutions they receive. You can adjust your approach as needed to better set up for success.
Find out more about open innovation at MindSumo.