When is a Solution "Close Enough"?

Thursday, 01 December 2011 20:50
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Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart was once asked his definition of hard-core pornography. His oft cited reply was that it was hard to define, but that "I know it when I see it." I think that open innovation practitioners can often set their definition of an acceptable externally sourced solution with a similar mindset. Are they being overly hard-core?

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

When is a Solution "Close Enough"?

When we look to purchase a house, we know that a "new build" will allow us to customize the design to our precise requirements. With a home being built "on spec", we accept that there is a limited amount of customization possible. 

Similarly, in open innovation products and technologies not developed "from scratch" by the technology seeker, these often arrive in a form that may not be precisely what they themselves would have designed. Sometimes, it can be customized extensively (with the customer seeking to encourage the provider to absorb as much of this time and cost investment as they're willing to tolerate). Other times, there is a limited amount of customziation possible. The less customization required, the greater the advantage derived from bringing it in from outside. Often, the question becomes, what is an acceptable standard for adopting an external innovation candidate, and deriving a suitably large resulting benefit?

I feel that most companies don't think this trade-off through nearly enough. I perceive that they usually set their standards so high, that these seemingly are more rigorous than for an external candidate than for an internally developed one. I think that sometimes their requirements can be unrealistic (if not unreasonable)...which costs them speed-to-market advantages they might otherwise realize.

Some companies have this figured out. Unfortunately many others haven't. So, how close is close enough for these companies? From the limited number of external innovation successes that I've heard broadly publicized, I answer with this popular expression: "Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades." 


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