Open Innovation Needs Fixing...It REALLY Does

Monday, 07 October 2013 06:35
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In recent months, I have been discussing with corporate open innovation managers the barriers to OI success they've identified within their businesses. What can be done to address these challenges?

Curious to learn more? Read on, dear friends....

Open Innovation Needs Fixing...It REALLY Does

Ask most OI (Open Innovation) managers about their company's experiences with OI, they'll publicly tell you that everything is good and getting better. However, if they allow themselves to be candid, many will privately lament that they experience some persistent frustrations that hinder their group's progress and OI's acceptance within their company. While all of the following challenges may not apply to your company, I suspect that at least some of them sound familiar:  
- Open innovation scouting is undertaken only after internally sourced solutions are judged to be unavailable. While this in and of itself is reasonable, it can also create situations where externally sourced potential solutions are subject to hypercriticism by the internal customers. This can significantly handicap their adoption prospects.  
- Technology scouting exercises can often represent a cover-your-a*s undertaking when project teams wish to be able to answer management's question: "have you considered all potential options?"...but who don't really want to seriously entertain or develop external options. This can result in wasted OI team effort.

- OI teams can be tasked to develop external solution options for projects whose circumstances have changed sufficiently since the scouting mission is commissioned that the options developed are no longer relevant (or necessary)...again, resulting in substantial wasted OI team effort.

- External candidate "handoffs" from the OI team to a "catcher" (e.g. Product Development, Purchasing) who lacks the relationship and program development history with the external partner and who can inadvertently undo much of the goodwill earned by the OI manager and potentially scuttle a deal.

Are there sensible fixes for these problems, especially since they are so common and persistent? A very sensible fix is for R&D management to overtly decide up-front which projects will (and won't) be managed via an OI approach. This, versus reserving OI for instances where internal efforts have failed to yield viable solution options.

Further, project teams should set realistic success standards and action criteria for external options identified through technology scouting. Know and accept in advance that while the product must minimally meet certain technical standards, they shouldn't be required to conform to often unrealistically high requirements as a prerequisite for adoption, investment and customization.

Open innovation is here to stay. However, in order for companies to derive maximum value from it they should accept that cultural resistance to it exists and persists. Rather than hope that it will subside companies would be wise and pragmatic to develop their OI work processes to deliberately avert internal friction.

Could your open innovation team benefit from coaching tips to help improve its internal selling effectiveness? Consider giving me a call at 614 937-2408.

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