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Common Pitfalls When Implementing an Open Innovation Project

Common Pitfalls When Implementing an Open Innovation Project
Maggie Franz

Maggie Franz

Photo by Valentin

And How to Avoid Them

Companies of all types and sizes are implementing Open Innovation Programs and hosting challenges, and projects to reap the benefits gained by gathering a multitude of ideas contributed by people from different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives.  While not every open innovation project is bound to be a successful one, there are some steps that you can take to avoid the common pitfalls that cause other projects to fail. 

In this post we’ve outlines seven of the most common pitfalls and explained how you can take the right steps to avoid them when hosting your next open innovation project. 

7 Common Pitfalls You Can and Should Avoid: 

  1. Not Defining the program and its objectives clearly. 
  2. Failing to find and engage the right participants.
  3. Not Communicating expectations and potential rewards/benefits.
  4. Not Writing Detailed project descriptions/Briefs
  5. Failure to communicate the outcome
  6. Incorrect use of allocated budget
  7. Not managing expectations

How you can effectively Avoid these Common Pitfalls: 

1. Defining Your Objectives 

A major pitfall for those working daily with open innovation, is that the goals of and reasons for establishing an open innovation challenge or project might be crystal clear to you, so you fail to state them.  For those who work in other areas of your business, these reasons and rationales aren’t quite that obvious.  Take time to clearly and succinctly define your open innovation project, it’s goals and/or objectives, and how the project aims to achieve those.  

Go beyond broad ideas like, generating an idea for a new project, or expanding our current business objectives.  Get granular with this part of the plan.  

For example, if your goal is to develop a new project, think of the many facets of a new product.  In which sector of your business does this product fit?  Who is the ideal customer for this product?  What specific pain points does this product address or solve? Or, what benefits does a customer gain from this product? 

2. Find and engage the right participants

An all too common pitfall companies succumb to, is inviting the same participants to every project, or failing to reach outside of their comfort zone to find new and impactful people to invite into their project.  Each open innovation project is unique and will benefit from a different set of participants.  Identifying those participants is one half of the equation.  The other half is effectively engaging them. 

3. Communicating Expectations

Assuming that your participants will automatically understand the different ways in which they are expected to participate in your open innovation project is a major pitfall.  Many projects lack this simple, yet very important step.  To avoid this common pitfall, put yourself in the place of your project participants.  What do you need to do in order to fully contribute to this project?  Is it as simple as submitting an idea or a response to a question? Or, do you want/need participants to go beyond this? 

Draft up the different exercises or steps that you would need participants to take.  If you need them to download a user diary, read a prompt or article, etc. in order to fully participate, explain that here.

4. Establish a Timeframe

Assuming an end date is enough information for your users can be yet another major pitfall.  When participants undertake a new project, they want to be able to understand two things from a timing aspect: how much of their time will this project require, and how will they be able to track it’s completion overtime.  

If your project will have various phases, (phases are often defined by requiring a change in action IE - if you are asking for ideas, and then feedback on those ideas, you might have two separate phases to your project). Explaining that there are different phases, and what those phases will be, helps your participants understand where they are in the life cycle of that project.

5. Communicating the outcome of the project

Often, a successful open innovation project creates change.  Whether you’ve created a new product, or embraced a method of saving time, money, or improving quality, you have also created change.  Change is often difficult for an organization to accept and embrace, and projects who fail to communicate the outcome of the project or challenge, set it up for failure, even after it has been completed.  Effectively communicating the result of the project and what it means for the organization is a simple yet meaningful step that can greatly increase the success of the project, and of your overall open innovation initiatives. 

Pitfalls that often span multiple projects

6. Use Your Budget to Your Advantage

In order for your open innovation projects and overall program to be successful, avoid the pitfall of spending too much on a single project or tool.  Start small and work with what you have, and overtime, you’ll prove that your projects and therefore program generates a return on corporate investment.  This might mean not running the exciting, groundbreaking project of your dreams first.  

Selecting the right tools that can aid and amplify your projects is like walking a tightrope.  You need to find ones that can start small and scale with you as you grow, but that start providing value from day one.  At Svava, we’ve designed our tools to require a minimal investment to get started, to provide meaningful impact by helping to facilitate your projects saving valuable time and energy, and to grow with you as you build your success. 

7. Manage Expectations

Not every project from your open innovation program will turn into a new revenue generating product or revolutionize an aspect of your business and failing to recognize and communicate this is a common pitfall that leads to disaster.  

Managing the expectations of both those to whom you will report, as well as to the participants of the projects will go a long way towards keeping these parties interested and excited about the work you are doing.  This will prevent higher-ups from placing tight constrictions on your program, as well as prevent your project participants from becoming bored or jaded if projects don’t pan out. 

When starting your next open innovation project, pull up this post and make sure that you don’t fall victim to these common pitfalls that can knock any great project off of the tracks.  Want more information on these tips and/or how the ideation and innovation platform from Svava can help you create successful project briefs? Email our team today. 


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