Collaborative Structures for Open Innovation, part 1

Recently, I wrote about open innovation as a design pattern. The idea of learning how to create and develop ideas “not made here” is an interesting one, as are some of the collaborations, partnerships and contractual structures used to reach out to other organisations. In this post, I’ll start to explore the question:

What kind of collaborative structures can businesses use to source and exploit new ideas?

Using the Productive Thinking Model, the first task is to start gathering some information so we can understand what is going on a bit better. Normally (for a single person CPS effort) I would reach out to the trusty Mind Map…I just found it a bit clunky. Perhaps I’m getting old. Anyway, in today’s post I’ll introduce a new approach to personal brainstorming with the Cloud Map.

Note: I only made up the tool yesterday so it still needs a bit of road testing. Please give it a go and let me know how it might be improved.

A Mind Map Refresher

Mind Maps are a really well understood and effective tool for capturing and organising information visually. Starting from a central focal point, ideas and concepts radiate out in a number of branches, with each new idea branching off from another. There are some great examples here, where you will also find some case studies on how the mind map has been used for note taking, business planning and a number of other structured activities.

The Cloud Map

As I started mind mapping collaborative structures around open innovation I noticed that I was spending more time thinking about how ideas and concepts related to each other than I was actually getting them down on paper. I wondered what a mind map would look like if I stopped putting in the branches and just clustered ideas together around a few key concepts. I ended up with something like this:

And so the cloud map was born. These are the key features:

  • One Central Idea: there is still a single focal point, with ideas essentially radiating out from it
  • A few key areas: mind maps generally have a few major branches to key topics. So does the cloud map. I just stop there. In this example, I wanted to look at who would participate, how the would interact, and how money would change hands (or not)
  • Word Clouds: all the other ideas are thrown down as a word cloud, roughly clustered around the key points. The idea is to allow for rapid ideation, and a stream of consciousness styled approach.
  • Underline later: the last step is to scan through the cloud map and pick out the best ideas.

That’s it. I did this by hand (the image is done in PowerPoint for the purpose of this blog). A quick and simple way to cluster ideas and jot down your thoughts.  I found it really useful and quite liberating.

Road Testers Wanted

If you are reading this, please have a go at cloud mapping and play around with it. I genuinely would like to see or develop a tool for collecting ideas quickly, in cases where structure is fluid or unknown. Don’t get me wrong, mind maps are great, but sometimes a dirtier precursor is needed. Likewise, if you know of any existing tools for doing this, let me know.

Next Time

Over the rest of this week, I will continue exploring the kind of collaborative structures, business partnerships and contractual mechanisms that could be used for open innovation. A creative problem solving road test if you like. Check back to see how I’m going.

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