What do you get when you mix Web 2.0 and social networking concepts with a patented and customizable innovation process framework? According to Norwegian start-up company Induct Software, the result is a Software-as-a-Service-based platform (SaaS) that lets companies practice open innovation as part of an accessible Web-based community.
Based on the work of researchers and professors in the open innovation field, Induct aims to counter the premise of traditional innovation tools, most of which target company employees and are software versions of the old-fashioned corporate suggestion box, according to David Burns, Induct Software's CEO, formerly CEO of Fast Search & Transfer (FAST), a maker of search-engine technology that is now a division of Microsoft Corp. Conversely, Induct, a true Web-hosted platform, applies enterprise Web 2.0 technologies and social media practices to make an Innovation Community accessible to internal company employees, as well as external customers, partners, retailers and suppliers, as long as the appropriate security constraints are put into play.
"Traditionally, innovation has been an internally focused discipline where people inside a company try to come up with new ideas, but there's a huge amount of information locked away on the outside," Burns says. "We want to let them participate in the process."
Using Induct's familiar "Facebook-type" interface, participants share ideas, collaborate and get feedback. Users can participate in discussion threads and post their own homepage profile, which advertises their specific skill sets to the rest of the Innovation Community. In addition, the software's process design framework ensures that all valuable ideas are "bubbled up" for input and action by managers and executives so valuable innovation suggestions aren't lost at the lower levels of the organization.
"Because innovation management is relatively new and not formalized, the solutions are pretty much cobbled together and not consistent across a department or even a division," Burns says. Induct's Web 2.0 style of user interface really appeals to people because they are used to it in terms of how to build a community, compared with other innovation platforms like Invention Machine's Goldfire, which are aimed more at the research and scientific communities, he says.
The other key differentiator of Induct is patented technology that links a type of innovation to a customized ranking algorithm - an approach necessary, Burns says, because different types of innovation need to be treated differently. Induct has defined several types of innovation, including product innovation, process innovation, organizational innovation and technology innovation and embedded ranking algorithms for each into the Induct platform. This approach enables companies to evaluate their particular innovation in the best light for optimal decision making, he says.
The software, which has been pilot tested in Norway, is available immediately from Induct as a hosted service, starting at $15 per user per month.