Who’s gonna ride your wild horses?

Open Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship

Two fascinating things that happen for years and too many decision makers who don’t know much about them.

Imagine a leader who starts every morning by engaging every employee in reading and mapping the latest world innovations and news in their field of work for one hour a day. What do you think the impact of this tactic will be?

One of these days I found a Ted speech of an executive from a well known global organization who started by WOW-ing about her latest revelation: open innovation.  

The good thing is she eventually discovered it, tested its potential and benefits and poured her insights into the world. The less fortunate thing is that open innovation is out there at sight for over a decade already in the present form. It changed very little or not at all since it started to speed up and diversify its horizons in 2007/2008 when crisis hit.

A similar thing I found among NGOs players. Many realized that the classic NGOs closed systems and rigid approaches are not as impactful as they are supposed to be, that sponsors funds and ordinary people’s donations are not smart enough spent on the causes they address, on the social and environmental problems they are supposed to solve. Loads of projects are hard to follow up or are never followed up, they are not self-sustainable, their continuity is entirely addicted to external funding and the overhead bigger and bigger costs directly affect the amounts that should reach the social target cause. When you see the bureaucratic way many NGOs operate you don’t need to see the audit studies to realize how far they are from accomplishing their publicly declared mission.

I hear many NGO people WOW-ing when they hear about self-sustainability, social business and social entrepreneurship concepts and economic models. Such concepts make much more sense than just doing business or than just playing the NGO game.

The good news is key people from NGOs realize these things more and more. The less fortunate thing is these models are out there struggling for ages to raise awareness. They are real exit ways from many challenges and for many target audiences.

Where do open innovation and social entrepreneurship emerge? 

One way to put it is that social entrepreneurship is a strategy while open innovation is a tactic. Apparently they are totally different realms, but at a closer look you’ll realize how beautifully they emerge in some points.

By engaging as problem solver in meeting today challenges through the venue of open innovation, one plays the role of a social entrepreneur (whether s/he is aware of that or not).

Social entrepreneurs are people who use business skills to solve a social problem. But social entrepreneurs are also scientists who use their knowledge and skills to solve a social problem. Fundamentally, anyone holds the potential to play this role in a certain degree.

Some argue that open innovation is a profit-based model and it has nothing to do with social dimension of things. Of course it is. Anyone has to live from something, but we create jobs, we pay taxes for every cent we make, taxes that are redirected to cover social issues, to fund education, defense, health, and so on.

Despite their business oriented model, open innovation promoters identified a range of social problems, old and new: companies facing bankruptcy and looking desperately for solutions (a black hole in economy and society), companies searching to lower their costs with innovations and business processes (a good way to maintain existing jobs and create new ones), a diversity of old problems without solutions, high skilled unemployment, environmental challenges, the lack of merit based systems, and so on.

What open innovation is trying to fundamentally do is to create an operational venue that allows worldwide talents and organizations to meet and join forces in order to answer all these old and new problems,  maybe even better and faster than ever before. This process is meant to eventually lead to the creation of more legitimate solutions, products and services, it offers the chance of continuous learning, it silently redesigns the world.

Imagine dedicated open innovation platforms for crisis situations, for intelligence, for justice systems, for police and preventing and solving cyber crime events and economic frauds, etc. 

It’s nothing new in the vision itself. All that’s new is the existing modern communication tools that allow such models to finally reach their potential.

 “We Are Solvers” interviews with inspiring minds of today’s world, the award winning problem solvers from open innovation, broadened my horizons about the future of open innovation. Is there one? If so many voices from all sorts of angles think it’s so good, impactful and fascinating, why isn’t it able to reach its potential? Today, online platforms and businesses have the unique chance to fly from the ground and thrive in less than 1 year since start-up. So what’s wrong with the existing open innovation platforms? It’s been 10 years already since the first ones went online and opened their gates to a larger public.

A common line of thought emerged from our eye-opening discussions during We Are Solvers: as soon as “the hope of payment” exploitative existing systems will be replaced with better balanced rewarding and feedback systems, open innovation platforms might have a real chance to succeed. Fundamentally, as long as these platforms will give a serious thought about how to better value and reward their “humanitarians”, problem solvers who are the heart of their business, the engine of this system, they may get a real chance to break the ice and thrive.

It’s such a natural growing strategy that you can’t stop wondering why open innovation leaders don’t apply it. 

It is a very good time for newer open innovation platforms to start-up and to make the competition game much more interesting and challenging.

Anyway, to rehabilitate the initial line of thought and to conclude, these two fascinating things, open innovation and social entrepreneurship, are maybe the latest greatest ways to help organizations thrive, whether they are profit or not-for-profit. They are tangible opportunities.

They are both old visions and mindsets, but due to technology fantastic progress and fast internet spreading in the world they have very new and promising dimensions. Though, for some reasons, many leaders, decision makers and influencers know very little or nothing about them.

Are they too old? Is the new world moving too fast? What’s the catch?




Starting with 2016 you can benefit of open innovation award winning problem solvers knowledge and skills and ask for their professional opinion in the challenges you and your organization face.

Check OPINIONS ON CHALLENGING MATTERS section from We Are Solvers site for more information about this unique kind of opportunity.

Leave a reply or two. Or your testimonials if you ever worked or interacted with me.

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