A few weeks ago, I wrote about The Value of Non-Confidential Exchange in the Open Innovation process and briefly introduced you to NineSigma, a consultancy built on an Open Innovation process. I recently had a chance to talk with Frank Evan at NineSigma about their company and their processes, and I’m going to summarize some of the key points in this post.
The primary offering of NineSigma, who are focussed on accelerating the innovation cycle, is their Rapid OIsm program that they designed to help clients design and launch their own open innovation initiatives.
The Open Innovation (OI) process begins with the NineSigma team sitting down with the client in a two-way conversation designed to help the client understand what OI is and how they might have to change the way they do business to take full advantage of what OI has to offer. Then NineSigma reviews the client’s goals, processes, and projects; builds a RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed) diagram to make sure that all key parties are included in the process; identifies areas where processes need to be altered or improved to take advantage of OI; and outlines the changes that need to be made for the company to take full advantage of OI. The next step is to sit down with cross-functional teams to help the client implement the appropriate OI-friendly process changes.
Once the client is ready to take the first step down the open innovation path, NineSigma will work with the client to generate the right proposals and disseminate those proposals through their network (which is 1.7 Million strong and growing). They’ll also review all proposals that come back, to make sure they are appropriate and well-formed, and assist the customer in identifying those proposals that appear to be the most suitable. Once one or two proposals are accepted, they will help the client engage with the solution provider(s) and make sure the entire process goes smoothly.
As partly discussed in The Value of Non-Confidential Exchange, there are numerous advantages to both the buyer and the supplier in the open innovation process when a third party is used as an intermediary. The buyer gets to explore the market without exposing their identity, which is important if they are a big multi-national in an ultra-competitive industry, as this could tip of their competition about their future plans. Furthermore, NineSigma, who requires suppliers to sign off that they are not releasing confidential information in the absence of a formal agreement, insures that all proposals submitted are appropriately formed.
In addition, at NineSigma, all of the primary facilitators are PhD scientists and engineers with significant industry experience. Compare this to your average big consultancy who is just as likely to assign you a fresh MBA with no real world experience as it is to give you a senior partner. Furthermore, commitments are on a project-by-project basis and the client retains the right to all information generated during the process – which has worked for big name clients including Kellogg’s, P&G, and Hershey in sectors that include CPG, Food, Automotive, High Tech, Chemical, and Petroleum. That might be why NineSigma has been growing rapidly for the past three years, opening their first international office in Japan in 2006 and their second international office in Belgium this year.