‘What is clear to us, and indeed many businesses across all industry sectors, is that, no matter how much we spend on internal research and development, or support our core academic networks, we can never have in place the expertise to cover all of our interests.’ These words appear on Tata Steel’s website, referring to its open innovation challenge launched in 2015.
Many other corporations, such as Apple, Philips, Nokia, Swarovski, BASF and Procter & Gamble, have deployed open innovation initiatives. Here are some more good examples:
// The Samsung Accelerator gives entrepreneurs direct access to the company’s data, decision makers and distribution channels – financing promising ventures.
// The customisation project Lego Design byME allowed fans to design and order their own Lego models.
// Talento com Fibra (Talent with Fibre), a 2012–2013 initiative Exago developed with a client in the telecom industry, challenged graduate students from the best Portuguese universities. In 2012, 275 participants registered, presenting 80 proposals. A year later, 471 students delivered 151 projects. The company’s internal community could then choose 16 finalists whose ideas entered the last selection stage.
// The Suppliers’ Forum is a platform implemented by an Exago health sector client. More than 40 relevant suppliers from different industries can now contribute to improving practices, processes and products, creating value in the group’s supply chain.
From talent spotting through to technology scouting and the development of special connections with main stakeholders, the benefits of open innovation are many, no matter the type of industry or how big or small your organisation.
Still, such programmes have been too often a source of frustrations for managers, leaderships and participants: when they miss their target, when facilitators lack the capacity to manage large and complex volumes of information, as participation grows, and when the ideas presented fail to match the company’s reality and, therefore, are of no consequence.
Time and money are wasted. The programme implodes. Worse, lack of efficiency and relevance and other collateral damage undermine efforts.
Open innovation initiatives, indeed, are not automatic and self-running procedures. They are borne out of strategic thinking and perfected by practice in integrating ideas and skills and reaching good levels of engagement and meaningfulness, as well as carrying out the work involved in converting promises into results.
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