What Did both Fiat and the Participants Gain from the Open Innovation Experience? Draw up a List of Benefits for Each.
It is no secret that Brazilian popular culture pays a great deal of attention to cars and their development. The majority of Brazilian people could not imagine their lives without cars and the opportunities that cars create. Therefore, an open innovation idea that came from automobile manufacturer Fiat impressed a number of people at the end of the 2010s. The head of the Fiat Brazil Style Center, Peter Fassbender, gathered the company’s best representatives in the innovation, publicity, and communication departments and offered an open innovation paradigm in which Fiat consumers were invited to share their opinions and suggestions to be considered in the creation of a new Fiat product (Saldanha & Pozzebon, 2015).
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Though some industry leaders believe that consumers should never think about what they want or what they can get from their companies, Fiat proved that involving customers in the creation of a new product could be rather beneficial.
In fact, both Fiat and the participants of the open innovation initiative gained many benefits. Fiat and its employees received numerous benefits:
- The identification of the needs and wants of their customers;
- Brand development and expanded brand recognition;
- The ability to communicate with customers directly 24/7;
- The recognition of additional Fiat strengths and opportunities that can be used in the future to impress its consumers and stay unique in comparison to other representatives of the automobile industry
- The chance to invite more people to become Fiat customers; and
- An incentive to think about what customers actually want instead of just utilizing the company’s existing ideas.
The benefits for the participants, including both existing Fiat consumers and potential customers, are as follows:
- A chance to share their opinions about the products they want to buy and use;
- A feeling of personal importance in the face of a huge corporation;
- An opportunity to think about their future and the development of their ideas;
- Constant cooperation with Fiat;
- A chance to understand personal needs and wishes in the automobile industry;
- An ability to learn how to introduce personal needs in a proper way and develop writing skills;
- The possibility to learn more about the organizational culture of Fiat, its intentions in regards to their customers, and future plans that can be implemented or used as prototypes for a particular company or the industry in general; and
- A realization that even well-known companies that have already gained recognition and respect are eager to pay more attention to ordinary people, their customers, in order to prove the quality of their work and their desire for mutual cooperation.
Both parties gained a lot by using the idea of open innovation and consumer involvement.
If the Fiat Mio Was Merely a Prototype that Would Never Be Produced or Marketed, What Was the Real Innovation?
Even if the Fiat Mio was just a prototype without any actual commercial production, Fiat still produced an incredible innovation in the automobile industry: the use of a web-based platform for thousands and thousands of Internet users to share product development ideas directly with a company (Saldanha & Pozzebon, 2015). The fact that so many people participated in the program and shared their opinions to contribute to the Fiat Mio could inspire other companies to take advantage of this unique, crowdsourced model.
It is also necessary to consider the fact that any real innovation identifies and solves the problems of a company. In the case of the Fiat Mio, the real innovation may thus be in the company’s use of the open innovation program to identify and invite more potential customers to the Fiat brand. Moreover, even if the Mio remains a prototype, it can serve as an effective marketing and advertising tool to expand the company’s global recognition and its opportunities. It is not enough to make some improvements in the Brazilian automobile market; with the Fiat Mio, Fiat can make the world speak about the company, its innovative spirit, and its customer engagement.
Finally, the real innovation could relate to corporate management and departmental cooperation, as many representatives of different departments within Fiat—including those who work in the spheres of innovation, publicity, and communication—were able to cooperate to create a new product based on the opinions of thousands of people.
Another Example of Collaborative Innovation
Lego is another company that has used a number of open innovation techniques to promote communication between its employees and the community. It helped to analyze and improve the customer base, provide more value to ordinary customers, and develop good relations with regular customers. When the company found itself in financial trouble, Lego ambassadors started communicating with customers to solve the existing problems together and avoid bankruptcy.
They listened to the ideas and dreams of their customers (children) to create and successfully develop a new product. Through collaborative and direct communication with its community, Lego was able to cope with its financial problems and discover new ideas for development. Still, Lego should realize that competing companies may adopt collaborative innovation strategies to become serious competitors in a short period of time (Schilling, 2013).
Saldanha, F.P. & Pozzebon, M. (2015). Fiat Mio: The project that embraced open innovation, crowdsourcing and creative commons in the automotive industry. International Journal of Case Studies in Management, 13(1), 1-19.
Schilling, M. (2013). Strategic management of technological innovation. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.