Sunday, September 23, 2012

Open innovation: Ideaken CEO Jayesh Badani shares his experience

We got an opportunity to talk to Jayesh Badani, CEO of Ideaken, a Bangalore based start-up providing an open innovation platform. Jayesh was one of the panellists at Next Gear, a workshop on innovation leadership I facilitated in July. Ideaken platform is enabling MNCs and social sector solve some of the tough problems they are facing. During the discussion, we explored following questions on open innovation with Jayesh:

  • What is open innovation?
  • How do you formulate the right challenge?
  • How do solvers protect their IP?
  • Have you had customers who announce the challenge, learn from the submitted ideas and not select any?
  • Does every challenge have to result in a prize?
  • Do you help solvers in finding if there is a patent related to their idea?
  • What is the value addition you (Ideaken) do in the whole open innovation process?
Here is a sample Q&A. For complete discussion, please see here.

Q: What is open innovation?

Jayesh: If you look at every innovation, it can be traced back to a simple question, “Can this be done better?” If you ask this question to yourself daily, actually you are innovating. If you ask the same question to your team, you may get better answers. If you ask the question to people sitting in this room, it may add further clarity.

Many companies are dealing with some fundamental problems they can’t solve. They have innovation teams working on these problems. Sometimes there is a mental block that innovation can only happen from within. Sometimes it goes even further when individual says, “It has to be from me, so that I get the credit.” This is changing slowly. A lot of people like C K Prahalad have talked about concepts like co-creation. Some companies have started doing it in a bigger way.

It begins with a challenge – the company wants to solve. Now, formulating a challenge is itself a big step. It is not about the details. Sometimes you can write 10 pages and yet nobody understands it. Depending upon the complexity and clarity associated with the problem, formulating a challenge may take a few days to a few months.

For example, we had this challenge from a food processing company. They have the packaging machines which go fast and pack your food. In this process, air also gets packaged in the packet. From the food point of view, less the air better the shelf life. But unlike items like pen or pencil, you can’t remove all the air from food – air is part of the food sometimes e.g. cake. So the challenge is how to remove maximum air without affecting the product in optimal time. You could slow down the process to do it better. But that affects you productivity – how many packets you can pack in a minute also matters. So in essence even if you can reduce the air by 5-10% then you are talking about a significant gain in product shelf life.

Once such a challenge is formulated and announced, it goes through a clarification phase from interested solves. Someone might say, “I don’t understand this aspect of the challenge.” Or “I think I can reduce the air only so much, is it ok?”  A challenge duration may wary from a month to 3 months. Outcome from short duration challenges are just ideas while some amount of detailed solutions are expected from a longer duration challenge. When we launched this specific challenge related to food packaging, we received solutions from 20 countries. 

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