New ideas are necessary in every industry. Business advancement relies on regular challenge-based innovation to stay competitive in the marketplace. Without constant forward movement, they risk churning out outdated ideas and solutions.
What is Open Innovation?
Open innovation isn’t a new idea, but it’s one that has only recently emerged as a strategy for confronting complex problems. To properly understand open innovation, why it’s critical in today’s business world, and the missed angle for open innovation, we need to understand what closed innovation is and why it isn’t a fertile problem-solving strategy.
Closed innovation occurs within the silo of a company’s own structure. Such a framework for problem-solving leads to companies doing different things with the same approach they’ve always used. They control the whole innovation process, relying on the assumption that they have sufficient knowledge to create effective solutions. Such a narrow perspective supports pragmatic ideas, rather than creative ones, and ultimately reduces the capacity for innovation.
Many companies have expanded beyond this restrictive model and are engaging open innovation, a multi-industry approach to generating transformative ideas that include a range of perspectives. This approach engenders greater capacity for change because it incorporates fresh ideas, a fluidity of internal knowledge, and welcomes external collaborators.
This exchange of ideas and knowledge between stakeholders adds massive value to businesses. Open innovation is unencumbered by the rules and boundaries of traditional problem-solving approaches, and it’s more transparent.
But there’s a further step in Open Innovation Culture that’s just beginning to emerge in the world of business enhancement. It’s an intelligent strategy that has always been available, but until now, it’s been a missed angle for open innovation: university student involvement.
Why Every Business Needs Student Mentors
Sounds kind of backwards, doesn’t it? A mentor is, by definition, someone who provides guidance, but guidance can come from any source, especially if that source offers a critical edge.
As the requirement for greater creativity grows, so too do unconventional ways of doing business. One way is to capitalize on available multifarious resources. That’s where the student brain, passion, and drive come in.
Let’s take a look at key ways student engagement in open innovation can generate business solutions that may otherwise be inaccessible.
Students can provide quick and inexpensive insight.
Students are primed, pumped, and inspired to apply newly learned concepts and ideas to real-life situations and challenges. Most adult students are in higher education because they want to be, which means they have the drive necessary for developing creative solutions. It’s what businesses want to work with, and even better if the exchange of resources is experiential and mutually beneficial, meaning no price tag attached.
Involving students in open innovation reduces costs and increases a company’s differentiation. Students also can provide ideas that generate new revenue streams, leading to more profitable outcomes.
Students are less biased.
Students tend to have a less biased, and therefore, more critical perspective than the seasoned industry experts and business gurus immersed in their own naturally acquired way of doing things. They have very little experience, if any, to influence tunnel vision. The learning stage in one’s professional growth can be humbling, and humility can be the impetus for actively inquiring and defining problems from many angles. Students are engrossed in the spirit of striving to improve and grow their knowledge.
Students are optimistic.
In the learning phase, we all have big ideas. We’re lit up not by what’s merely available, but with what’s possible. Learning is about inquiring, analyzing, criticizing, and romanticizing all that’s possible or seemingly impossible. It involves developing and creating, and a hundred other actions that many business owners lose throughout the course of their professional lives.
When students are going through the learning process they’re inspired and willing to tackle the world’s biggest problems. Why? Because that what learning does. It stimulates those fuzzy parts of the brain and wakes them up, turns them on, and sets ideas free. That’s why universities need to construct real-life student challenges that nurture and expand that learning energy. The intended bonus of such an arrangement is to deliver creative ideas to business communities without the barriers imposed by the closed paradigm.
Students don’t know what they don’t know.
Non-experts are often the best consultants on complex issues because they can analyze and communicate problems in a basic, highly-accessible way. In a sense, they don’t know what they don’t know, which makes them capable of breaking down the problem into simple, digestible pieces. And we know that effective solutions require a thorough understanding of the problem.
Students are big thinkers.
A siloed approach may generate more pragmatic ideas, which are typically the products of small-thinkers. In many cases, technological, financial, or regulatory restrictions, or lack of available resources or knowledge may limit the capacity for innovation. In response, business stakeholders may unknowingly shrink their own potential.
Students present, in many cases, wild ideas that may never be considered in any other innovation arrangement because they lack clarity. But as we’ve seen demonstrated through many historical inventions, clarity is a work in progress. There must first be a wild idea.
Is using the student-as-mentor perspective in open innovation initiatives, in itself a radical idea? Absolutely. And it’s creating far more engagement between the spheres of higher education and professional business than ever seen before. If you’re interested in learning more about this promising learning solution, contact us.