The way that ideas are communicated and shared is constantly changing, and many companies are embracing an open innovation approach to remain competitive in the Digital Age.

Open innovation is defined by professor Henry Chesbrough as “a paradigm that assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market as the firms look to advance their technology.” Christopher Deutsch, the R&D Manager at Telops explains that “Open innovation is increasingly recognized as one of the key practices to enhance the productivity of [research and development] and to improve an organization’s capability for successful innovation,” of how open innovation can be a powerful tool used to help a company grow.

Open innovation can be practiced in many different ways. Here are three examples that many firms have embraced:

The Industry Conference. According to Zach Bodack of Global Data Management Systems, “Attending an industry conference or seminar is one of the best things you can do for the future of your business,” of how paramount these events are to staying innovative and competitive. The annual DocuSign Momentum conference is a great example of an industry conference that provides invaluable insights into the future of Digital Transaction Management. The 2015 DocuSign Momentum conference will feature presentations from DocuSign CEO Keith Krach and other industry leaders, providing attendees with invaluable exposure to digital transformation thought leaders in addition to product demos and industry trends.

Other prominent annual conferences include the World Business Forum, the Forbes Women’s Summit, SXSW, MozCon, the Customer Experience Conference, and the Startup Conference, all held at various locations around the country.

Hackathons. A hackathon is an event in which a large number of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming. Hackathons can last several days, and according to Techopedia, “the roots of hackathons are with open source projects.” Techopedia also points out that a number of companies have recently adopted the hackathon concept as a way to innovate their brand with the help of programming experts from outside of the company. Although hackathons represent a somewhat new trend, they are a good example of a powerful means of achieving innovation with help from an external source, and will continue to be relevant in open innovation discussions.

Recent hackathons include Hack Cooper 2015, Hacksmiths Mini Hack, HackHers, Little Oregon Laboratory 2nd Annual Hackathon, and Social Good Hacks.

Crowdsourcing. “The rapid exchange of data necessary to maintain competitive enterprise operations demands access to multiple, fluid sources of information,” explains Innocentive. Crowdsourcing uses the input of people outside of a company to gauge trends, solve problems, and provide solutions from an external perspective. Innocentive mentions that major companies like General Mills, Anheuser-Busch, Coca Cola, and Nokia have all utilized crowdsourcing to help innovate their brand or specific products in recent years. “Calling for crowdsourced ideas, information, opinions and analyses has emerged as a viable and enriched resource of enterprise-date,” Innocentive observes, noting that “it is rapidly becoming a procedure of choice for generating innovative solutions for a vast range of corporate and societal issues.

For more information about the power of open innovation, be sure to check out Christopher Deutsch’s article on the topic in the Technology Innovation Management Review.