Open Innovation | HPE Crowd Creates Business and Social Impact

by Mike de la Cruz, Vice President, Applications, HPE Enterprise Services
Sep 29, 2016 9:20 AM ET

In the Idea Economy, we can tap the crowd to address the world’s toughest business and social challenges. We have the unprecedented ability to harness diverse perspectives of large groups of people from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines to develop new creative solutions.

That’s the idea behind HPE Spark, our open innovation platform. HPE Spark started as a forum to share innovations and ideas among our applications delivery centers. It has spread organically, growing purely by word of mouth. Today, more than 16,000 HPE employees are members of the HPE Spark community, innovating and collaborating across locations and organizations.  Amazing!

How does HPE Spark work? Innovation consultants work with an external or internal client to translate business problems into a challenge. We then issue the challenge to everybody on the open innovation platform. Members of the HPE Spark community originate ideas, build on each other’s ideas, and team up on solutions. The client who issued the challenge then selects solutions to fund, and also learns from the diverse set of ideas. We teamed with IDEO, the innovation consultancy, to embed design thinking best practices throughout the process.

We recently used HPE Spark to work through an issue for our client GM Financial which wanted to improve the customer experience for automotive dealers. The Spark challenge resulted in many new ideas GM is now pursuing—from creative ways to improve the online user experience, to coming up with a new app that will be used by dealers to apply for financing. 

HPE Spark also played a key role in the Living Progress Challenge—which invited the global community to submit ideas for how technology can improve lives. Over the course of a few weeks, more than 4,000 employees throughout the company collaborated with nonprofits to develop new innovations—including Living Progress Challenge winners MyWORTH, a digital app targeted to financially excluded women, which replaces paper-based ledgers and savings records, and Detect IT: Fish, a World Wildlife Fund solution leveraging HPE’s Vertica that can identify the trade of illegal fisheries products on a global scale.

The HPE crowd contributed creativity, ideas, and expertise to the social sector, but the process also benefited the HPE volunteers. Employees who participated were exposed to the process of design thinking; received feedback and coaching from across the organization; had their ideas heard; developed new relationships with people around the word; and expanded their perspectives. One HPE team from Mexico developed one of the four winning solutions—MentorME, a mobile app that aims to increase and accelerate access to mentors for high school and college students. Muy bien!

We use open innovation to tap into the deep, broad expertise of HPE employees around the world. It’s a testament to our confidence in the creativity of our colleagues. The true power of HPE Spark is the incredible diversity of the teams it brings together— developers, marketers, testers, financial experts, HR experts. They self-select into teams that go on to collaborate and move an idea forward into creative solutions.

It’s one great example of the Idea Economy in action. And it’s also an example of how we are creating competitive advantage through innovation.