There is no way around innovation today. The great dynamics of the international markets force not only young start-ups, but also established medium-sized companies and large world market leaders to constant change. Those who win the customers and employees of the future as partners for open innovation open up new opportunities. Successful market participants should rely on students, then both will win.

Welcome change

In view of the digital revolution and the networking of international markets, companies and institutions must change faster than ever before. Successful players are therefore constantly adapting their strategies, structures and processes. With an agile organization, they anchor innovation firmly in their culture and always stay one step ahead of the competition. This applies to large international world market leaders as well as to the hidden champions of German SMEs. They hold their own in the market because they consistently focus on renewal. They soften rigid hierarchies and choose creative approaches. Their employees work together across locations and departments and are responsible for their own processes. In this way, companies systematically promote new ideas.

Open to the outside world

Companies or institutions that are also more open to the outside world in order to create something new are at an advantage. This is because they gear the design of a product or service more consistently to the needs of customers, users or citizens. This does not absolve them of the obligation to anticipate new needs independently and to invent, discover or develop solutions themselves.

How did Henry Ford, who turned the car into a mass product, put it so aptly?

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have answered: Give me a faster horse!”

But back then, one standard product was enough for everyone. Fords Model T did not even offer a choice of colours. Today, consumer opinion counts more and modern car manufacturers offer almost infinite variants for every vehicle. The strength of such a standardized product as the Apple I-Phone lies not so much in the choice of size, color and storage space, but in its openness to countless third-party apps.

A forward-looking approach to identifying needs that users are not aware of and that they cannot yet articulate is the so-called Open Innovation. The basic idea is very simple. A company uses the swarm intelligence of its target group and directly receives valuable ideas and creative concepts for products or services. A good example of the superior intelligence of the swarm is Wikipedia: more comprehensive, up-to-date and also better in terms of content than any classic encyclopedia. By clever curating of the contributions of -zig million authors something unsurpassed comes off here.

Include target groups

When companies intelligently involve their target groups in their innovation process, they save time and money. Customer opinion opens up different perspectives, more ideas and greater knowledge and reduces the risk of failure. Those who open themselves up to the outside world with open innovation will usually progress faster and more safely than the inventor in his quiet closet or the innovation department without customer reference.

This applies in a similar way to the state: Open Government explores people’s wishes and ideas for legislation, government and administration. The open state involves its citizens, asks them about their interests and opinions and incorporates their suggestions for improvement and suggestions. In this way, it creates trust.

Rely on students

Who should companies and institutions turn to if they want to open up to the outside world to create something new? Often there is an ideal target group: students. In view of a student ratio of almost 60 percent per year, this population group is extremely relevant in Germany in particular; due to its youth and diversity, it is also particularly open to innovation; and within a few years after graduating with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, its individual purchasing power usually exceeds the average of the population. They are the buyers or users of the future. And it can be assumed that their level of education is also associated with inventiveness. Universities offer an unimaginably large, yet largely untapped potential.

Strengthening the employer brand

Those who get involved in universities in this way also gain advantages on the job market. Employers have long been in constant competition for the greatest talents and the managers of tomorrow. They must develop a sustainable competitive advantage in order not to miss out in this competition. This requires a rethinking of “What do I want as an employer or company?

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