Collaborative Structures for Open Innovation, part 4

In this final post on the topic of Open Innovation I will continue to use the Productive Thinking Model to explore the question:

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

What is Collaboration?

We’ve had a look at some existing approaches to collaboration, as well as some of the features of a successful collaboration. Having had some time to think on it, I’ve come up with the following simple model for the collaborative process up until the point at which an ideas is selected for implementation:

As shown, collaborations need an agreed purpose around which groups can form. Once groups are formed, they will then search for solutions and some form of selection will be made before being acted upon in some way.

The Morphological Box

A morphological box lets you sketch out a matrix of different potential solution features, and then recombine them in creative ways. I prefer to use this as a launch point for further discovery rather than as an end in itself, which is what I’ll do here. The following morphological box has been put together with a few of the key features from existing collaboration models, such as InnoCentive and Kickstarter. The columns follow the four basic steps of the collaboration process:



Why are we collaborating? What do we want our groups to do?

Form Groups


Connecting people



Creating ideas, testing concepts, selecting the best



Turning ideas into action

Idea Competition challenge + prize for winner

Sign Up

open entry

Discussion Forum

chat room, message board

Winner Takes All

cash prize from buyer

Funding Request

have idea, need cash

Formal Partnership

between businesses

Email / Phone

Private conversations


A group choose their favourite

Service Marketplace

will work for food

We Know Each Other

retirees, alumni etc

Face to Face

workshop, meetup

Solution Marketplace

Buyers bid for or purchase solutions


skills wanted

As an example, InnoCentive is shown in green. Below, I’ve chosen a different path at random, as the basis for today’s creative problem solving exercise. I’ve expanded each choice to start the ball rolling:

  • Service Marketplace: businesses and individuals can post ‘help wanted’ or ‘for hire’ ads in a particular discipline. Ads are more specific than recruitment ads, specifying actual problems that need to be solved and which form the boundary for the arrangement
  • Formal Partnership: businesses enter into formal supplier arrangements with each other for specific services or resources
  • Face to Face: groups meet up and collaborate in person, using any number of approaches for managing their interaction
  • Solution Marketplace: tested solutions are put up for sale

This can be elaborated further using brainwriting (since I am doing this alone), cloud mapping or some other method for listing out a lot of ideas. Here is a snapshot of some initial thoughts:

  • Pop up Events – set time and place, with a marketplace approach to challenges and groups. challenges are posted for all to see, with groups self organising around topics of interest. Facilitators might be on hand to help groups collaborate effectively and keep to time. Final solutions could be made to a panel of investors, pitch club style. Investors would be backing a prototype and discovery stage, not a business plan
  • Floating Resources – business clusters could establish virtual project teams to solve specific issues, resources would be drawn from any of the member businesses for the duration of the project
  • Discovery Channel – businesses and their customers could setup exploratory channels to test out and develop prototypes. Think IDEO observation labs made available as a service for the non initiated (i.e. non design business). Somewhere that vendors can try out rough and ready prototypes, and learn to observe customer behaviour properly (i.e. to find out why not just what).
  • Bargain Bin – a place for businesses to dump all the projects they can’t get off the ground, or don’t have the resources to make viable. Potential buyers might make contact with the originators to find out more and make it work

What other models can you find to collaborate?


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