Technology can be a polarizing subject. Many believe that the digital age has made people more technology-dependent or obsessed with their mobile devices and social profiles, and to some extent this is true. But technology has also bridged the gap between businesses and people, making us much more efficient individuals capable of advancing innovation through collaborative efforts.

Suppose you're responsible for discovering the next big thing to help propel your company to the next level. You could do an individual search and sift through piles of information indexed by Google, although that may take hours of precious time and energy. Worst of all, most of the valuable data is never touched by Google and requires multiple logins to disparate information sources such as patent databases and journals. Improving the public's access to information and data could also drive up the demand for technological advancements and spark innovation amongst third party members.

Bringing companies together to collaborate and co-develop innovations is exactly what technologies like Wellspring are trying to accomplish. "Firms can no longer own all the knowledge in a field or industry. Instead, they must source technologies and expertise to be competitive," according to Joe Granda, Executive Vice President of Marketing at Wellspring. This idea of open innovation encourages knowledge sharing and alliances across businesses who can benefit from working together.

Humans are inherently social animals. We see this proven time and again when we check our social media pages or feel the need to socialize and stay in touch with our friends group. However, innovation teams need more than general social media and sharing tools. Teams tend to flourish when they have a purpose-built, process-driven tool as part of their digital collaboration tools. Granda stated, "we believe fit-for-purpose collaboration solutions are more efficient and have higher user adoption. It's like buying a t-shirt for your entire company. If you order one size for everyone, don't be surprised when only a few team members wear it. Moreover, it takes significant time and energy to customize common software to do something it wasn't really designed to do. That doesn't mean you should buy software that can't be tailored. You still need to customize to your business processes but don't start from scratch." It's an important way to simplify cumbersome processes, absorb knowledge effectively, and streamline the steps required to execute, helping companies to find the right opportunities and run more efficiently.

The digital era provides ample opportunities for information to freely flow between industries and it certainly was not how many successful companies previously ran their operations. Before, many businesses were hesitant to open their doors to the public because of competition within a similar industry. Today, businesses are warming up to the idea of sharing information in order to drive innovation forward. Open innovation is different from sharing company secrets. It's when two companies work together to search for mutually beneficial solutions that can help both businesses excel.

Technology is making the world more interconnected than ever. It's also empowering companies with the ability to do more and to become more efficient with the knowledge they are given. "Wellspring's mission is to make visible the critical intellectual assets within your organization and your broader network. Unlike spreadsheets and sharing systems that don't scale, Wellspring's cloud software fosters systematic and purposeful pioneering efforts. For instance, our Search Once Scouting tool enables users to scour multiple authoritative sources simultaneously such as patent and publication databases to get merged relevant results. The software's toolset empowers innovation teams throughout the process from search to evaluation to partner negotiation."

The cycle of innovation is never ending. As businesses continue to innovate, the tools and technologies created are used to aid a business' innovation process. Open innovation and the free flow of data can increase business efficiency and amplify the effectiveness of a company's innovation process. Rather than protecting your knowledge behind a locked vault, consider sharing it with a like minded entrepreneur and see what collaborations come of it. It's like they say: "teamwork makes the dream work."

Published on: Feb 15, 2016