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  • Writer's pictureDavid Kraft

Introducing Rhizome Network

In its simplest form, open innovation is the act of working with people outside your own four walls to create innovative concepts. Whether to create inventions or new business models, open innovation is used to bring new, distributed knowledge and ideas from the outside into companies. Firms use open innovation, as Henry Chesbrough states, as “purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation, and expand the markets for external use of innovation, respectively”. The subject and science of open innovation continues to evolve, leading to the discovery of new best practices for ways to leverage people and technology.

Rhizome Network’s vision is to eliminate the barriers and fundamental challenges companies and governments face when connecting with experts, technology, capital, and markets. We seek to provide innovators with the ability to exchange and transact in many ways, depending on the needs of business and society. In other words, we see a need for an open innovation marketplace. And, like most marketplaces, there is too often an asymmetry of information about what is being created or delivered. Open Innovation is no different. Our customers often ask, ‘Who are the great innovators?’, ‘What are the risks to developing and adopting a technology?’, or ‘Why can this innovation transform my business?’. To help close the information gap, we build teams to collaborate with external partners in order to bring together new ideas, and expand markets, efficiently. We foster open innovation through collaboration, rather than open calls for ideas.

Based upon a decade of experience leading open innovation programs as practitioners, we see open innovation projects commonly fail due in-part to the following challenges:

  • Stakeholder misalignment (i.e. organizational mandates vs. individual priorities)

  • Lack of technical and commercial alignment (i.e. economics / business model vs. technical risk)

  • Unknown trade-offs for adopting new technology (i.e. No drop-in technology exists and new problems emerge), and

  • Transitions (i.e. time kills projects, delayed decisions, poor hand-offs between teams)

These challenges are significant barriers to moving concepts into realized solutions. Rhizome Network offers “managed open innovation”. We curate our teams to include multi-disciplinary experts that have both technical experience (i.e. the skills and technical depth to be innovative) and business acumen (i.e. the knowledge to implement solutions within the context of broader issues). In other words, our innovators bring more than creative ideas. We challenge our network members to consider the full path of commercialization from idea to product, alternative business models, impacts to existing ecosystems (e.g. suppliers), the markets dynamics, and capital requirements, in order to realize solutions. We believe our approach helps our customers navigate the uncertainty of developing new technology through to commercialization more clearly, while also managing through the inherent barriers to open innovation.

Another advantage of our methodology is that we actively encourage the co-creation of ideas, by facilitating an iterative approach to concept development. We ideate iteratively with our customers and network members because of how we contract team members and manage IP ownership. Our customers receive the rights to the IP and work product. This reduces friction between stakeholders and drives buy-in by allowing customers and network members to actively contribute to both the problem definition and refine promising solutions. Through this process, concepts are refined, problems redefined, and the trade-offs are better understood by the broader team. This is a distinctly different approach than most crowd sourcing models, which are typically characterized by concepts limited to non-confidential information and protracted confidentiality/licensing agreements for promising solutions, leading to friction over time.

The results of our methodologies have led to new business strategies, new products/applications, startups and licensed technologies. We have also helped companies kill poorly conceived initiatives, and avert costly programs with low-probability for success and low-potential returns. We look forward to working together on your next innovation project!

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