Fresh insight: breaking down barriers to open innovation

The benefits of working with those outside of your organisation to help you to innovate are widely promoted, but if you have never engaged in open innovation it can be quite a daunting prospect.  The Open Innovation  –  challenges and solutions conference held at the British Library recently aimed to look at the practical aspects of larger organisations working with (creative) SMEs.

Image credit: Milena Mihaylova on Flickr

I’ve pulled together the main points made by the speakers, who are listed at the foot of this post.

Organisations engage in open innovation when they understand that not all of the expertise they need to develop new projects, services and initiatives lies within their staff. By collaborating with outside experts, organisations can access fresh ideas and insight to help develop.  Companies such as Procter & Gamble (P&G), Unilever and Orange are already engaging in open innovation and reaping benefits.

Understandably, it can seem risky to bring people into the depths of your R&D department. You need to establish trust and a business model, considering the potential return on investment and discussing intellectual property.

Mike Addison, P&G, referred to the WANT, FIND, GET, MANAGE model, a framework developed for open innovation.

WANT: clarifying what is needed internally and what is required to make it actionable

Organisations need to start the process with an interesting question, and need to be capable of delivering open innovation.  It’s important to be clear on why you are not doing this internally, and to clarify what type of innovation you are looking for – radical (breakthrough or game-changing) or incremental (developed on from existing offerings).

Many organisations find that the barriers to open innovation are found within their own staff – individuals that may shut down new ideas before there has been a real opportunity to develop them. Creating a culture for open innovation requires good leadership, finding ways to include adversaries in the process, and involving people that are good at spanning across the boundaries and translating between them.

FIND: locating appropriate opportunities and progressing their timely assessment

How will you identify and make connections with the externals that you will be working with? How do you establish trust with your collaborators?

The conference suggested that there might be a need for online platforms where partnerships can be developed, and will help each party gain a clear understanding of the other. Opportunities such as the Design Council’s challenges provide a platform to bring organisations and SMEs together.  Also, who within the organisation is the right person to take open innovation forward? Those at operational level are often not the right people to do this.

GET: valuing the opportunity and getting to win:win

How do you manage risk between the partners and ensure the project has a return on investment?

Organisations need to understand the value that that their external collaborators bring, at the same time as exercising due diligence. The process of creating value can be difficult, particularly around ideas and concepts, and bearing in mind that creative SMEs often want to licence their ideas rather than creating a new company.  But nevertheless, a business model needs to be developed, looking at how the project could be commercialised.  This should naturally lead into a discussion about intellectual property (where resources at the British Library Business & IP Centre can be used) ensuring an agreeable outcome for all partners.

MANAGE: creating the conditions for long-term successes

Donal O’Connell, specialist author on open innovation discussed the need to identify metrics and KPIs, not forgetting remembering basic project management and communication.  His tips for how to do open innovation successfully were:

  • Have an open innovation strategy
  • Show leadership
  • Scan and scout
  • Have an internal champion
  • Step into shoes of externals
  • Train, coach and mentor externals
  • Update your key business processes
  • Involve legal and IP
  • Don’t forget the basics of people and project management

The conference was organised by the EU-funded Open Innovation project.  Speakers:

  • David Simoes-Brown, 100% Open
  • Mike Addison, Procter & Gamble
  • Harry Barraza, Unilever
  • Jogesh Limbani, Orange
  • Danny Burke, Quantum Innovation Centre
  • Maxine Horn, Creative Barcode
  • Donal O’Connell, Open Innovation Specialist Author
  • Paul Mellor, Mellor & Scott

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