8 ways to build open innovation and collaboration with stakeholders

Last night I attended a forum on Radical Collaboration, hosted by The Crowd. Here’s my perspective on how to build ‘open innovation’ with stakeholders, from what I heard in the great TED style talks, panel Q&A and our stimulating round table discussion:

1. Have a common goal.

In her talk, Jenny Holdcroft (Policy Director at global union IndustriALL) explained that the success of the Bangladesh Accord depends on companies and unions working towards a common goal to transform the industry. In areas where companies are looking to collaborate, the panel discussed the need to tackle a problem from a broad community perspective. This is how GlobeScan approaches online stakeholder Collaboration Forums and how Unilever approaches its Open Innovation initiative.

2. Get CEO buy-in.

The example we heard last night was Andrew Witty’s leadership and support on GSK’s open innovation strategy. And Paul Polman is another highly visible leader who emphasises the importance of collaboration and who put this into practice by taking part in the online Unilever Sustainable Living Lab, which was facilitated and moderated by GlobeScan.

3. Experiment in a safe environment.

There’s a huge opportunity to tap into employees for ideas. Our round table shared examples of working with employees to crowd source ideas on sustainability. Here at GlobeScan we’ve seen first hand the importance of CSR and sustainability in driving employee engagement and the richness of ideas from employee consultations. And the technology for online collaboration with employees is often already available.

4. Involve the right people

Tom Hulme from OpenIDEO emphasised this – and it really is the foundation to good collaboration. Stakeholder mapping is a great place to start when looking at different groups.

5. Invest in the right questions.

This was another one of Tom Hulme’s guiding principles for OpenIdeo. Again, it’s something we agree with at GlobeScan – designing an elegant, stimulating discussion guide or questionnaire is crucial to effective consultation with stakeholders.

6. Manage the risks and identify the opportunities.

The panelists encouraged us to think of the benefits of collaboration and not just the risks. Mike Strange, Head of Operations at GSK’s Tres Cantos research campus, explained that there has been greater interest in collaborations generally at GSK since the launch of their open innovation strategy.

7. Motivate and incentivise the audience

There are several ways to do this. The intellectual challenge may be enough. The audience may develop new skills, or expand their networks. And they gain respect and credit for their input. When we reach out to stakeholders – whether through research studies or Collaboration Forums – we commit to sharing results through reports (such as the Unilever Sustainable Living Lab highlights report) or webinars.

8. Do something with the ideas.

As the panel last night emphasised, the owner of the idea generated may well be different from the owner of the implementation. But taking action as a result, and being seen to be doing so, are essential to the success of open innovation. BT did this well with their follow-up to the Better Future Forum. They convened their Board Committee for Sustainable and Responsible Business to agree to a series of commitments emerging from the Forum and posted these in a report and video before it closed.

If you’ve found this post interesting, you may like to read our earlier blog series on stakeholder engagement.