Open to ideas

You might have noticed the box on the right of this page. We launch our new think tank in just over four months’ time.

We probably won’t have the funding we need, or our full status established, or… well, lots of things won’t be in place. But there’s a couple of advantages to launching before we’re ‘ready’.

First, it certainly focuses the mind. Less prevarication, more ‘what’s the most important thing to do today?’

Second, we hope it makes for a better ‘product’. This sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s increasingly well-established as an approach. If you’re familiar with the idea of ‘lean start-up‘ (developed by Eric Ries) and ‘launch first, fix later’ you’ll appreciate why. I anticipate I’ll be returning regularly to concepts like ‘Minimum Viable Product’ in this blog.

This week I had a typically valuable discussion about the project with a former colleague, David Simoes-Brown, who with Roland Harwood founded the innovation consultancy 100% Open. They do great work – and attract great clients – in open innovation, the approach to developing new products and services that starts with the recognition that ‘not all the smart people work for you’. As David and Roland define it, open innovation means innovating in partnership with those outside your company by sharing the risks and rewards of both the outcome and the process. (‘Open Innovation’ was first coined by UC Berkeley academic Henry Chesbrough in 2003).

As well as talking about collaborative technologies and the personal experience of setting-up a new venture, talking to David I was also reminded of how our new think tank has been influenced by open innovation (something I’ve researched in the past). After all, it’s based on the idea that ‘not all the policy experts work for you’. How could they? The services, systems and issues that social policy deals with are incredibly complex; are 20 or so people sitting in a cramped office somewhere near Whitehall really supposed to know all that needs to be known in order to make a better ‘product’, in this case better policy?

But our project is also open innovation in the sense that we’re developing it publicly, and because people like David and (we hope) many others will contribute the thoughts and ideas that help build a better think tank.

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