Decouple Innovation and the Workforce with Open Innovation 

By Keaton Swett | March 31, 2023

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Key Points

Even as enterprises recognize the need to innovate to stay relevant in continuously evolving markets, their intellectual capital is in danger of draining away.

Decoupling innovation and the workforce requires rethinking the way ideas are introduced and developed. Open innovation offers important advantages over the traditional approach.

The most effective way to pursue open innovation is to make it an integral part of the business.

Innovation is requisite for successful competition. But even as enterprises recognize the need to innovate to stay relevant in continuously evolving markets, their intellectual capital is in danger of draining away due to factors like these: 

  • Layoffs. Over 3,150 US companies announced layoffs in 2022. As of the first quarter of 2023, over 972 firms have done so. Though the technology sector was the most affected, other industries were also represented. 
  • Job hopping. The median job tenure for workers 25 years and older is less than five years 
  • The Great Realization. Many professionals have chosen to go independent, and that portion of the workforce, totaling 64 million full-time workers in 2022, is increasing. 

Trends like these can create skill and knowledge gaps that impede innovation, which in turn slows down product development and business growth. Enterprises must implement strategies to decouple innovation and workforce fluctuations. 

Get Innovative with Innovation 

Decoupling innovation and the workforce requires rethinking the way ideas are introduced and developed. Traditionally, this process was kept locked down in house, often with a specific department tasked to oversee it. The “mind bank” of idea generators was comprised of a very small and exclusive group of employees as a way of retaining knowledge and information. 

Open innovation offers important advantages over the traditional approach: 

  • It can fill critical skill and knowledge gaps in the enterprise 
  • The number of ideas generated for a particular need can be much greater and attract a much more diverse group of idea generators 
  • Instead of using internal resources to generate ideas, employees can focus on developing the “winning” ideas 
  • Cost efficiency is high  
  • Enterprises can include target customers in the research and development process, gaining valuable insights into consumer preferences along the way. 

Luckily, one thing that many open innovation platforms have in common with the traditional approach is that the enterprise owns the intellectual property that is generated. 

Making Open Innovation Part of Operations 

The most effective way to pursue open innovation is to make it an integral part of the business. This will let you maintain if not exceed levels of innovation that propel the company forward, regardless of workforce fluctuations. To get started: 

Select a platform that fits your needs

A range of online platforms offer open innovation engagements. Some are focused on specific skill areas such as software engineering or creative services, while others like MindSumo support a wide range of expertise.  

Pilot an engagement

Use a pilot project to get familiar with how to use your open innovation platform and how it can strategically support the enterprise. 

Capture learnings from the pilot

Use learning processes to obtain clear learning points that can be leveraged in a full program. 

Codify the in-house process

Based on your learnings from the pilot, formalize the process for implementing open innovation in the company and teach all relevant business units how to successfully adopt this process

Times have changed—and continue to change—and innovation strategies need to change as well. Open innovation invites knowledge, information, and creativity from outside the organization to contribute to the achievement of key business goals—independent of workforce trends. Take advantage of the brainpower outside your organization to get past skill and knowledge gaps and keep business growth front and center. 

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