HaloIPT vehicle

+ Arup is using collaborative innovation to generate ideas that, like HaloIPT, it can commercialise.

How do you find the next winning idea, whether it’s a product, software, an app or an equity opportunity? I think the future will be all about collaborating in the innovation process. This approach enables early identification of the best ideas - and has many more benefits than just financial success.

At Arup, we’ve recently adopted a new collaborative process for harvesting ideas. People from across the firm can post their idea onto our web-based platform for others to give their view using social media functionality. Our ventures leaders – the leaders of our products, apps, equity investment and software teams - watch the platform. They make the final decision on whether or not to invest.

This approach doesn’t just help find the next big thing; it also helps to build connections between people in a global organisation like ours. And people enjoy taking part in something that fosters their entrepreneurial spirit. That’s good for any firm that wants to attract and retain the best people.

What’s more, collaborative innovation forges valuable connections with people outside an organisation, even if they aren’t directly related to venturing. Since we launched our new approach in July this year, conversations have already led to our software team finding someone ideal to recruit. We’ve also met people interested in working with us on major projects in Africa.

Collaborative innovation has replaced the 'Dragons’ Den' approach Arup used to use, where people pitched ideas in person to a panel of directors. The downside of this was that it favoured people based in London and failed to tap into the breadth of skills across the firm. Using social media democratises ideas, increases transparency and promotes collaboration on a global scale. Bouncing ideas around a range of minds quickly kills off the bad ideas and makes the good ones more likely to emerge.

This approach is still at the experimental stage but the early indications are positive. An ideas competition has produced a range of strong ideas and we’ve already had some former employees approach us to post their ideas and partner with them. In due course we could open the process up to clients and others and embrace open innovation.

We believe collaborative innovation offers some exciting opportunities to create more solutions such as Soundscoop and HaloIPT. Have you had experiences of using it? I’d be interested to hear them.