Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Is there a NON-INTRUSIVE way to start with OPEN INNOVATION?

Recently we met up with a team at a leading automotive and industrial technology company.

As expected, the team there were well aware of open innovation (OI) and they told us how they too believe that the future of innovation belongs to OI. However there was an issue. The lead team is wondering how to get a buy in from their in-house research team - on where to start and how to start.

We offered some suggestions and we thought of some more along the same lines later. These may not necessarily be solutions to your OI problems, but they might provide some food for thought.

1) Start with a non critical innovation - The best way to avoid any issue at the beginning is to start small, and start with the non critical innovation needs. You can do this by selecting the really tough challenges or near to impossible solutions (Or really simple ones on the creative lines which does not have a right or wrong perceptions). Remember your objective is to start somewhere with OI. Do reward the deserving efforts (even though you may not be benefiting from it at the first try), not rewarding the deserving effort will put you in middle of a different issue to deal with! Another issue you will need to handle here would be to justify that - if you didn’t get the right solution then why do it again (and your private & one to one answer needs to be along the lines that the objective was to create a culture and not find a solution).

2) Make the in-house research team the owner of OI – The solutions coming in; using OI; should strictly be considered as ‘raw material’ for the internal research team. There needs to be a conscious effort to not bypass the internal team. The best way to do this is to make the in-house research team the owner of OI. The management team just above the core research team should not try to a) push too hard for OI b) get access to inputs coming in from outside c) should focus on the final outcome from their internal team (just the way they were doing earlier).

3) Select Vendors and Suppliers using open innovation – Today organizations select vendors and suppliers using either a recommendation, external consultation or via a RFP process. Though there is nothing wrong in these traditional methods, you have an opportunity to add a bit of an innovation flavour (be it for technology, a supply process or support). Ask for stretch goals and see how the responses come in. You can also use dedicated innovation intermediaries and other established channels for your selection process. When done, advocate it as open innovation within your company.

One or more of the above could be an ideal way of starting open innovation within your company; in the end; you need to enable the internal R&D team in understanding the power of open innovation. Also this will provide hands on experience in evaluating and supplementing selected solutions and help break one of the myths - that the internal R&D team is not required when the company goes on the Open Innovation path.

The only way you will be able to continue the OI journey is when your internal research team is able to produce better outcome using OI and when the credit still stays with your internal innovation team.

Do you think these can work for your organization, or do you know of a better way? Do share with us.