I started investigating stats regarding open innovation to see what I could find regarding the idea quality ratio. In simple mathematical terms this ratio is the number of approved (or implemented) ideas divided by the total submitted ideas.

Over the years, data from most idea management processes has shown that programs where this ratio is high, participation, and more importantly return participation, runs high and tends to increase. However, when this ratio is low, participation tends to decline. The reason for this is simple; most people don’t take rejection very well.

I came across this blog entry from Stefan Lindegaard regarding my old employer’s (Daimler) attempt on open innovation. There was a very telling line that he quotes from Daimler’s “Style your Smart” contest where 50,000 design ideas were received from over 100 countries and only six prizes given out. (3 for design and 3 for active participation in the contest by evaluating, uploading and commenting on designs)

The obvious result of this was that for those that came out winners, this was a great experience, and in a heartbeat they would probably participate in the next Daimler open innovation initiative. But what about the thousands of non-winners who entered ideas and helped evaluate and rate the designs? Will they spend the time and effort to do this again?

Daimler’s attempt, to a degree, recognized that engaging individuals required more than declaring a design winner. “Style your Smart” cleverly gave out prizes for participation, thus giving individuals a little more hope that they could win something, but for the most part it was a marketing gimmick that lacked a clear vision of how to re-engage the original participants in Daimler’s next OI initiative.

What is clear is that in the development of an open innovation culture one of the most important questions that has to be answered is... how do you guard against the inherent erosion of contributors?

The big challenge in Open Innovation (Part II)