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Crowdsourcing Co-Innovation to Disrupt Markets: Get Ready!

By Alex Goryacehv, Senior Director, Innovation Strategy and Programs, Cisco Systems

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Alex Goryacehv, Senior Director, Innovation Strategy and Programs, Cisco Systems

As  we begin 2017, no company is too big, successful or powerful to fail. The mass digitization of business will only accelerate, disrupting traditional markets and brands in its path. Unless enterprises urgently transform how they innovate, they risk becoming irrelevant or extinct. It’s disrupt, be disrupted or die. Gartner predicts that while 75 percent of businesses have digitization plans, only 30 percent of them will succeed. To survive, businesses must apply new strategies for innovation to keep pace with, adapt to and capture all the opportunities of the digital economy.

Today, no single enterprise can innovate fast enough on its own. The complexity and speed of digitization, fueled by Internet of Things technologies, is the most significant market transition since the Internet itself. As a result, solution and service providers must rely more and more on extending and engaging with their ecosystem of partners, both inside and outside the organization.

To thrive in the digital economy, companies will increasingly turn to crowd sourcing innovation to co-develop new solutions with their partners.  In the past, big companies often turned to other big companies behind closed doors to help solve a particular business problem with proprietary systems. Now, enterprises must forge new types of relationships in transparent environments and open-sourced platforms. Digitization forces them to be increasingly interdependent on developers, entrepreneurs, startups, researchers, academics, accelerators, incubators, and even government to weave together the best outcome for a customer.

There are several ways to build this innovation ecosystem. Service providers are increasingly scouting the world for talent, partnerships and new ideas through long-term innovation challenges, overnight development contests and hackathons. The key is to not only discover compatible innovation talent, which can come from anywhere, but to ensure long-term engagement with the ecosystem, and to co-innovate  new products, solutions or services that provides value for everyone.

Forward-leaning companies also are standing up innovation hubs in strategically located cities that attract talent locally to co-innovate solutions that can scale globally. These hubs should be working co-innovation laboratories equipped with the requisite technology tools and most importantly, access to industry expertise. These hubs help bring together the right variety of partners and customers to focus on that next disruptive innovation.

"Marketing plays a critical role in this transformation, which requires new ways of thinking, planning and executing"

Companies will also crowdsource co-innovation by getting more involved with accelerators, incubators, venture capital firms, startups, and academic institutions. You can deepenthese relationships by supporting them with funding, resources or expertise. They all contribute fresh perspectives and potential future talent for your own workforce.

And turning inward, any company today that does not ignite its own innovation disruption will be doomed to failure. The most innovative established businesses are returning to their roots, and transforming into cultures of Co-innovation Company wide. They are encouraging and empowering all employees to tap into their own passions, form their own diverse teams and co-develop disruptive innovations. I call this the rise of the internal entrepreneur.

We know that innovation can come from anywhere, and that the most valuable innovations come from cross-disciplinary teams with diverse backgrounds. Like at innovation hubs, employees must be provided with all the necessary tools, roadmaps, training, resources, mentors, rewards and recognition to nurture that “inner entrepreneur” and bring their ideas to life.

The common theme in crowdsourcing co-innovation is for companies to break down their own siloes of innovation, listen to and help unleash the brilliance of their partners—both internally and externally. In 2017, we will begin to see a network multiplier effect from these ecosystems. Digital disruptors will identify, share and converge best practices from internal and external innovation partners, generating game-changers that revitalize markets, customers, partners, and employees.

Marketing plays a critical role in this transformation, which requires new ways of thinking, planning and executing.  As new transitions emerge, marketers will need to broaden their own base of data collection, and respond fast with limited information so that the enterprise can adjust and pivot. They will be called upon to build digital platforms, activate these innovation communities and help business and technical leaders to refine their ideas.

Most importantly, to quick establish brand and generate leads, Marketing needs to be prepared to quickly market to non-traditional audiences, such as to startups, governments or academia.

Get ready! It will be an exciting and disruptive ride ahead.

Cisco Systems Inc.(NASDAQ:CSCO) is an U.S. multinational technology company headquartered in San José, California, which develops, manufactures, and sells networking hardware, telecommunications equipment, and other high-technology services and products.