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I recently had the pleasure of attending our strategic partner’s (Hype) conference and hosted Open Innovation themed customer workshops alongside Dr Oana-Maria Pop (Hype’s Head of Open Innovation).

The insights from the event showed me that we’re changing the conversation on how to work with partners, so I’ll be noting down the lessons learnt on the value I see with working in an ecosystem. This prompted me to put down some thoughts on ecosystems and perspectives in this blog along with much appreciated input and thoughts from Oana.

When talking and engaging with various market analysts (for example, TechMarketView describe 2019 as the “Year of the Relationship”), it is increasingly recognised that ecosystems and relationships are cited as being fundamental to organisations adapting and thriving.   I’ve written previously (ref co-creation by nature and collaborative partnership ecosystem) about the importance of dynamic and flexible relationships with partners to have an effective ecosystem and will look deeper here at open innovation considerations along with perspectives being key to succeeding.

Satisfying customer needs by developing value TOGETHER

Technology is forcing the market to change. So, it is no surprise to me that companies are using effective knowledge flowing from various parties to differentiate. To me, this is open innovation in action and I’m pleased to be part of this first hand.  Open innovation is of course nothing new, we can go back originally to 2003 with Henry Chesbrough phrasing it, and an example definition from him is “the use of purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation, and expand the markets for external use of innovation, respectively.”

My provocation here is that different perspectives are what really drive success..  Leveraging our ecosystem gives us the opportunity to have different customer conversations and through diversity of thinking and skills, we’re driving new opportunities for our customers.

Our deeper eco-system: a combination between academia and industry

Through our deeper ecosystem working with universities and research institutions for instance, we are finding that our working relationship with students in academia in particular has a number of mutual benefits.  The digital skills gap and challenges across the market is increasing, and given the pace of change in our industry we need to move quickly and benefit from freshening up inputs and perspectives through student involvement. Through working with students in our research projects and co-creation with our customers, we are able to work together in a commercial environment to not only benefit our customers but also benefit our own organisation and students themselves.  Students benefit through working in an on the job learning environment, with support provided from Fujitsu colleagues and organisation, and can enhance their own digital skills, employability, research impact and project learning back into their ongoing academic work and supporting their future potential.

With Nottingham Trent University in the UK, we have formed an exciting strategic relationship and we recently supported a Grand Challenge project where in just 5 weeks, 150 students (16 teams) came up with Smart Campus 2039 innovations, impacting Wellbeing, Workplace, Mobility, Facilities, Social & International.  The winning team who demonstrated brilliant innovation; Empowering people with accessibility needs navigating their location, supporting disabilities such as visual impairments, through utilising AI and other technologies. An inspiring and refreshing session to see the output of young people’s work who are motivated and have been trusted to strive towards a better future for our learning spaces through digital technologies.  This demonstrates the power of an ecosystem of perspectives bringing fresh and different thinking to address challenges through innovation. And I’m excited to take this conversation further at Fujitsu World Tour 2019.

With Hype we run our co-creation ideas platform, they are one of our strategic innovation partners who help us in the innovative aspects of our ecosystem, to work with our customers and partners in a different way to drive innovative thinking.  We are a strategic partner of Hype we have also been supporting the product roadmap in terms of accessibility and we’re really pleased with the steps they are taking as a company with their software which means more inclusivity of people being able to contribute.

Having recently attended their customer summit conference, I am keen to invite thoughts here from Oana, with her perspective on innovation ecosystems:

  • What open innovation means to you and your customers

With the risk of oversimplifying, I would argue that open innovation is both a belief in, as well as an ability to, effectively include external knowledge and partners into one’s innovation process. This ability is purposive (strategic), guided (knowledge either enters the firm, leaves the firm, or flows in both directions), recurrent (takes place regularly) and institutionalized (formalized through dedicated budgets, special infrastructure, people etc.), and includes stakeholders within as well as outside the firm’s boundaries.

It’s also important to note that open innovation is not the opposite of closed innovation. In fact, the two processes are complementary.

The major difference between the two lies in the attitudes they promote regarding progress and chance. For example, while the supporters of closed innovation typically see collaboration with external parties as cumbersome, unmanageable and potentially dangerous (IP-wise), open innovation practitioners believe the opposite. At HYPE, we encourage our customers to establish strong internal programs first and then gradually add external elements to them – e.g., activities with established suppliers, start-up challenges, customers co-creation exercises and even consultation with society at large.

  • Blockers and Successes to Open Innovation?

The biggest blocker to open innovation is often trust – or better said: a lack of it. Organizations that cannot create an atmosphere of sharing and collaboration and that fail to communicate regularly and transparently with their partners are often setting themselves up for failure. Other blockers include inadequate “process hygiene” (low or no rigor of process), poor planning and/or resource allocation as well as a broad range of pre-conceptions and fear regarding, but not limited to, scaling the innovation process once external stakeholders and involved, effective motivation of partners to share ideas, as well as the adequate legal wrapper.

  • Positive experiences collaborating with Fujitsu?

Over the years, Fujitsu has provided us with valuable thought leadership on open innovation and new forms of inter-firm collaboration such as ecosystems. Therefore, we are always keen on making them part of our events and this year has certainly been no exception.

At INNOVATE Bonn 2019 (HYPE’s annual customer Forum), we invited participants to explore how open innovation is impacting businesses everywhere as well as how they themselves may benefit by introducing/ professionalizing open innovation. Fujitsu was instrumental to the success of this workshop by helping show how co-creation can be institutionalized and how companies might create sustainable business models by leveraging the power of their ecosystem. We are grateful for the partnership!

  • How do you see the future evolving of innovation ecosystems?

I’m always cautious about making predictions but from my viewpoint, self-sustaining collaborative arrangements will be more frequent than ever before. While in the past alliances and portfolios have been the preferred forms of inter-firm collaboration, the future belongs to networks and ecosystems. In other words, to ever more complex, self-contained and self-adjusting structures that can help organizations combine each other’s know-how in diverse and even surprising ways to solve complex problems.

Here is an article that very much speaks to this trend:  The ecosystem of shared value

Before networks and ecosystems can become the norm though, companies will need to find more common ground, learn to identify and combine the capabilities of their partners, as well as explore ways of working and reporting on their work.

Having been part of the deliverables of working in an ecosystem first hand, I am confident that co-creation really does deliver success – we should work with our customers..  Even if you get the engagement of people relationships and technology right through various perspectives and innovations, without the institution (which we can lose sight of) then it’s questionable whether the willingness and ability to scale business outcomes can actually be achieved. The key is to build long-lasting partnerships by establishing synergies between the parties and various perspectives.

Bringing together the innovative expertise from the different perspectives

A brilliant example of an ecosystem of perspectives driving an outcome is our BuddyConnect solution; read more about the solution from our previous blog here.  The solution delivers assistive technology to users suffering from autism specifically as well as wider mental health support and addressing diversity, inclusion and accessibility needs.  This is a brilliant example of a successful ongoing ecosystem collaboration with charity and academia, with real life impact that is experienced daily by our employees.  Focused on helping employees plan and manage the issues autism may present in the workplace, providing easy access to information that will help them connect and communicate. We are really excited with the opportunity for us, our partners and our customers to support people in the workplace now, as well as the future roadmap through our academic collaboration.

A further example relates to supporting people returning to work from long term illnesses.  Cancer is a really important issue for us at Fujitsu. As 1 in 2 of us will experience the disease in our lifetime, most people have been affected by it directly.  We had powerful discussions in shaping an application we’re developing with our partners – Clic Sargent (cancer charity), Nodes (hackathon app partner), Nottingham Trent University (research insight), our own Diversity & Inclusion network with personal experiences as well as colleagues from other organisations bringing their own insights too.  See here for more details on the hackathon itself.  For me, pursuing an ecosystem of perspectives and skills drives value at various levels not just for the individual but all stakeholders involved. We aim to give our customers the benefit of everything the industry has to offer, and to do this we need to start with our people. The most valuable assets.

So what have I taken away from being part of an ecosystem where we challenge the different perspectives? We forcefully push the boundaries of what opportunities arise for our customers. And in this form of co-creation we deliver success, through a powerful diversity of perspectives.

What does the future look like? A diverse ecosystem of partners, skills and capability to drive innovative thinking. If you want to have different conversations that lift the lid for open innovation, you need to collaborate to draw on the advantages that different perspectives bring.

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