Is an Innovation Contest Innovative?

I read a news item today promoting yet another contest/open innovation/co-innovation website a company has developed to draw ideas from the general public. Is an innovation contest innovative?

No. An emphatic no, in fact – No!

I think that companies going the contest/open innovation route are cheating themselves – and their customers – out of their own innovative potential. It’s passive. Companies waiting and hoping someone will come to their website and submit the next big thing is not innovative.

Companies large and small hire smart, talented people and must use that talent to its best advantage. Shouldn’t a company look to itself to develop a pipeline? Has the company tried everything it can to draw out new ideas for products and services? Has the company developed a systematic innovation program? Has it developed opportunities for cross-pollination of ideas from staff across various departments? How far has the company gone to discover the voice of its customers?

Until – and unless – all of that has been done, an innovation contest is a shot in the dark – a chance in a billion – definitely not innovative.

(Full disclosure – I’m biased as the editor of a website dedicated to the idea that “real” innovation only happens by following innovation methods and tools.)KB