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For some time now we’ve talked about the enterprise as more porous or externalised. In other words, the enterprise can no longer be as self-contained as it traditionally has been.

Open innovation is an example of that – it thrives on the more open set of relationships that firms now seek out. Openness has a reciprocal feature – information, who acquires it from you and who you get it from.

Innovators tend to think of open innovation as an achievement, as an objective, a place to get to. It might be but, really, who does it systematically and repeatably? In other words where is it a process?

When we think about “open” it is a good idea to think of it in a broader context. Companies are open via social media, Cloud, via new supply chains and via the more active relationships they are developing with customers.

Intelligence from the edge

All of this raises a new set of questions. How do you reap intelligence from the edge of an organization, those convergence points where sales staff are interacting with customers, where customers are interacting in communities, where suppliers are devising their own innovations that in turn create new opportunities for you?

It’s important because the new credo in innovation is speed. Talking to Paul Muller at HP recently he told me that they estimate product updates will increase by about thirty fold over the next six years. Put that another way and the average product will have about 120 updates a year – one every three days.

The killer moment in innovation comes with the Internet of Things because things that communicate can tell you how they and their components are performing. They can set an innovation agenda that will compete with the innovation that we might want to set. At the very least, they multiply the innovation strands in an organization. And because they automate data collection they are a competitor to human intelligence.

For example it should be possible to reap more data on the performance of, say, a new car model that will in turn signal the need to modify potentially faulty or non-optimal parts in differenet environmental conditions, sampled from across the globe.

As we transition to this newly accelerated pace of change, we need more information of a strategic and disruptive nature.

windows-vista-splashIt will be catastrophic not to know the business roadmaps of fellow members of an ecosystem. Something of the kind happened to Windows XP. It just didn’t meet the requirements of the business population. Vista blew it too. Both were designed at the end of the era when Microsoft dictated how operating systems and browsers should work.

In a more open world intelligence, ironically, can be harder to come by. Innovation platforms currently pick up some of the edge-intelligence through challenges. Is that good enough?

It is an indirect access route to important information. For example a challenge might attract the attention of somebody in the organization who has talked recently to a supplier with interesting new ideas. But that person may not see the challenge or relate the conversation. This is too serendipitous to be taken seriously. It is too much dependent on the social business paradigm where lots of employees share…. Right!

To become edge-intelligence participants employees and partners need context. There is nothing worse in the world of work than being given a stipulation to contribute or participate when the context is unclear.

A disruption map

My own view of this is that companies need to maintain their own disruption maps. I mean by that, every aspect of a company’s activities should be viewed as a disruptable asset.


Take a core product like a fitness band, a relatively new area of business. The disruption is going to come from intelligent clothing, sometime soon. Clothing that can capture energy from body heat and movement to power batteries distributed with the sensors that record bodily activity. Or will it come from watches or gasses?

A company in fitness bands would have to maintain a disruption map that took into account all players in clothing and body devices. It might also need to understand disruptions in new materials, battery life, 3D printing techniques that can easily bond electronics components in circular shapes or printed electronics that create disposable monitors. That’s just one small element of the disruption landscape that needs mapping.

With that kind of context staff can pitch in. It would be possible to put out intelligence challenges. And platforms like HYPE could devise the ways to make map updates a process with a channel up to the relevant levels of decision making. The innovation platform as an enterprise intelligence tool.

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Haydn Shaughnessy

Haydn Shaughnessy

I'm an expert on systemic innovation and transformation, a topic I have been studying since the early 1980s. I advise companies and organizations on the latest thinking and practice in innovation as w