Experience teaches us that innovation is always first and foremost a matter of people, connections and analogies, before being a question of pure technology.
We’ve all found ourselves in those unique moments made for creativity and the emergence of new ideas — be it during an off-site staff meeting, or when traveling to a new place. It’s not always clear how or why those dynamics occur, but we can no longer leave it up to chance to stumble upon such creative environments. From policymakers, scientists and sales representatives, within the smallest start-ups or largest industrial groups, we must all be actively looking to create the conditions necessary for people’s ideas and knowledge to connect — both within organizations and across entire ecosystems. This is the driving goal of Open Innovation.
In the industrial sector, fostering innovation has become a priority for companies striving to be market leaders. Gone are the days when a firm could retain control over its entire R&D efforts. Gone, too, is the frantic competition to simply obtain more and more patents.
The recent revolution in information and communication technology has helped open up our world, where established innovation models are being disrupted and development times drastically reduced.
Regardless of the sector or the size of a company, innovation now thrives in an open ecosystem, developing hand-in-hand with customers, and relying on partnerships with start-ups, small- and medium-sized businesses, universities and research centers around the world. This new way of implementing Open Innovation applies not only to core business projects, but also to the so-called “new markets.” The goal is always the same: early detection of the best solutions to transform customer experience, and deploy them with agility.
While Open Innovation requires entry into different global innovation ecosystems to conquer new markets, one of the most crucial conditions of success remains the ability to work together. By organizing people around a network — where competences are better spread and shared, both locally and internationally — we accelerate the development processes through sharing knowledge and risks while always moving closer to end users. It is also an opportunity to attract new talent. If large companies want to stay on top, it has become indispensable for them to dive into the world and ways touted by start-ups. Granted, redefining one’s activity to fit our all-digital world requires considerable upfront investment, both financially and intellectually.
But favoring Open Innovation means believing that a more human way of working together is conducive to the best entrepreneurial spirit. It means always keeping up-to-date with the latest technological and societal changes. The goal, in the end, is to ensure the loyalty of existing customers while also attracting new ones.
In line with this approach, Air Liquide's plant of the future project Connect, which brings together 10 start-ups and a large number of SMEs, was launched at the beginning of 2017. More recently, our company joined the Techstars Paris incubator, which connects large firms and start-ups. This opportunity to accelerate innovation in the fields of artificial intelligence, data, the Internet of Things, cybersecurity and smart mobility enables each of the participating start-ups to benefit from the industrial and technological experience of the big corporations that have worldwide reach. For the multinationals, the experience helps enrich customer experience by taking into account the latest practices.
As we can see, this new innovation model offers enormous potential, which extends well beyond just technological advances. It is both a source for improving customer experience and increasing efficiency across a company, placing people and their expectations squarely at the heart of the innovation process. Ultimately, Open Innovation is aimed at putting into place the conditions for a veritable paradigm shift — at every level of a company and across all of society.
'Open Innovation, a key to transforming customer experience' was written by Benoit Potier, CEO of Air Liquide, and was originally posted on his LinkedIn profile.