Shaping innovation networks is both an art and a science. Any network is unpredictable and, in the end, impossible to control. Focusing on the replacement of one or two ineffective members has less impact than establishing the conditions for vibrant networks and taking advantage of the connections through which they flourish. Making networks more decentralized is another way to improve collaboration and performance. Innovation networks, like cross-functional teams, require different skills and profiles. They include combinations of several archetypes:
- Idea generators prefer to come up with ideas, think that asking the right questions is more important than having the right answers, and will take risks on high-profile experiments.
- Researchers mine data to find patterns, which they use as a source of new ideas. They are the most likely members of the network to seek consumer insights and to regard such insights as a primary input.
- Experts value proficiency in a single domain and relish opportunities to get things done.
- Producers orchestrate the activities of the network. Others come to them for new ideas or to get things done. Producers are also the most likely members of the network to be making connections across teams and groups.
Once the talented contributors are identified and interested in participating in the open innovation platform, it is timeto build networks and boost engagementand collaboration.
Engaging different profiles. When trying to engage the stakeholder community it is convenient to segment them according to how critical their contribution is, how they may be selected and engaged, as well as depending on their expected contribution. Furthermore, the network development strategy should depict the sequential phases of this development and the targets to engage in each phase.
The suggested target groups ranked according to their sequential priority would be:
- Leaders and influencers
- Employees outside of the marketing team
- Local community members and value-driven communities and individuals
The most strategic stakeholders to engage from the early beginning are the community and industry leaders. These are the ones who are likely to become the most influential brand advocates within the community members and stakeholders, as they hold trust and their opinion is listened to and well-considered within their circle of influence.
As explained previously, they are to be engaged in the project from the earliest stage when defining the mission of the plan. By engaging them from the outset and telling them how their contribution has been useful in the mission definition, they establish an emotional connection with the project as they feel like co-creators and are more willing to keep on collaborating as contributors in the Open Innovation System and brand ambassadors to eventually tell a story of success in which they had a significant role.
When searching and trying to engage with leaders and influencers, consider these tips:
- Determine who influences your target audiences and evaluate the likelihood of their engagement by researching on their interests and concerns to figure out if there is any connection with the project.
- Evaluate their reach in social media, their relevance in community or industry events, how often they deliver content or participate in discussions, etc. Then, prioritize accordingly.
- Develop a relationship with them by following them in social media, leaving thoughtful comments on their blog, engaging in their discussions, sharing their content, etc.
- Introduce yourself formally by email or through social media and explain briefly what the project is about and what kind of contributions you would like to obtain from him or her.
- Understand that they are very busy people and so it is mandatory to be patient with them and make things as easy as possible for them to collaborate. Agree upon little contributions.
- Thank them for their contribution and ask them to share the content with the audience if it consists of marketing content. After a while, let them know the results of the contribution.
This article is from the White Paper “Envisioning Open Innovation in Destinations”, available for download in www.envisioningtourism.com/whitepapers