Open Innovation Managers Require "Very Particular Set of Skills"
Many OI managers have shared with me their desire to achieve greater uptake of their technology candidates by their internal customers. A variety of factors can confound their efforts. Some of these are cultural, including versions of "not invented here" (NIH) which persist despite upper management perception that this no longer exists. Others can be related to organizational structure, such as when product development is tasked with taking technology hand-offs from a separate OI unit. Others still can relate to process, such as not having clear and unambiguous action standards to trigger hand-offs.
Regardless of the causes, most OI managers could benefit from becoming more effective at selling technical solutions to their internal customers, including identifying and overcoming objections. This requires, as Liam Neeson's character memorably said in the movie Taken,"a very particular set of skills".
What are these skills? In order to achieve higher adoption rates for their external technology candidates, an open innovation leader must build on their existing technical and communication talents. They also must be insightful listeners, with strong interpersonal relationship building (and sustaining) capabilities, and keen persuasion skills. They must be passionate, persistent, and politically astute advocates who know how to artfully persuade others to see and accept their point of view without alienating them in the process.
OI leaders are commonly cultivated from among R&D personnel, a population not historically known and celebrated for their interpersonal and selling skills. Having been both an R&D and a Marketing manager in my corporate life, I know from experience that it's just not typically how many of these folks are hard wired and trained.
Still, while some OI managers are talented salespersons with strong business savvy, I doubt that many receive formal sales skills training (as many marketing and sales professionals do) before being assigned to their roles. I think it is also fair to suggest that as a group, they could be more skilled at this aspect of their roles, given their experience, training and personalities. In a business environment where sometimes decisions can teeter on the brink, why not provide these professionals with the skills to help them become more successful in their roles?
Next week, we'll discuss some tactics for enhancing OI outcomes. Some of these are process oriented. Others deal with interpersonal exchanges.
What are your thoughts on this topic?