Communication can be the death of good ideas –
2 tricks to make Open Innovation even better.

Innovative companies allow consumers to participate in their innovation process within the framework of Open Innovation and burn millions of dollars because they let them communicate with each other.

Successes are modest

Open Innovation is one of the methods that has been driven through the village like a sow (german saying) in recent years. “You need to open up,” “Be transparent,” “Engage your community.” – yes, all right, but it’s also about the “how“.

Dell’s Idea Storm site has collected more than 25,000 ideas, but only 2% of them were usable. “My Starbucks Idea” has an even weaker quota of 200,000 proposals – 6,000 alone for new variants of the Frappuccino.

Why is that?

Basically, the path via CrowdIdeation (the crowd sourcing of ideas, so to speak) is an ideal method, because I reach many more people via the web than if I interview people individually. But there are also disadvantages.

If I throw my idea into a physical “suggestion box”, nobody sees this idea except me and the company. If, however, proposals are posted publicly on the Internet for all to see, I inevitably become a victim of the influence of swarm intelligence.

Whether I like it or not, if I read the ideas of other contributors, I am more inclined to accept the ideas of others, to adapt to them, or to reject my idea because I think it is not “worthy” of a contribution. As soon as ideas are public for all, it is often not the “best” idea that wins, but the one that communicated the “loudest” idea.

Can’t we do better?

We can! And this with only two small tricks in the process, which we have implemented on

(1) Contributors’ ideas are not made public, but can only be seen by the contributor and the company. Ideas are not commented or evaluated among the idea providers. Communication only takes place peer-to-peer.

(2) The more diversified the group of idea givers is, the broader the ideas that the company receives are. At we invite everyone to join in – employees, customers, suppliers, experts, but also anyone who is creative and enjoys challenges, regardless of age, race, origin, social status, religion or place of residence.


The use of Open Innovation is the right way. Nevertheless, there are certain rules to be followed in order to achieve the best result.

In the studies and findings are contributions of the work of:
Andrew Stephen is the L’Oreal Professor of Marketing at Oxford’s Saïd Business School
Peter Pal Zubcsek is an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Florida.
Jacob Goldenberg is a professor of marketing at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel