5 steps towards Open Innovation

Open Innovation is a broad and relatively new concept. And while ‘opening up’ your company’s innovation it isn’t easy to a grab a book from the shelf, find the perfect page that addresses your question and start implementing a new model in your organization. No, you are probably disappointed: the current literature is mainly theoretical and offers little useful information to get started immediately. One of my favorite works by Lindegaard makes an ambitious attempt, but is still too abstract for an innovation manager who needs to start á la minute.

It’s time for a – basic but concrete – roadmap:

1. Business Unit

The first important step is to implement Open Innovation in the processes of the research department (or new business development, innovation, etc.). Taking a top-down perspective, this means that the innovation manager is starting to spread the word, facilitates co-workers and needs to emphasize the importance for the organisational process. This results in the fact that employees will have to adapt to new circumstances and start shifting towards an open-minded attitude. R&D isn’t secret anymore and sharing knowledge becomes a basic routine. Even if all the ingredients for succesfull knowledge sharing are present, the succes of this step will be dependant on a number of soft factors, most importantly trust, networking and social talk. This is the first and most difficult phase. If you start something off well, you’re already half on your way

2. Organisation

The second step aims at implementing the model in the enterprise as a whole. R&D can’t only be “created” between thick walls in the clean room. No, R&D has to become a process in which every part of the organization is participating. First of all, start by getting the Marketing, Supply Chain and Production departments involved in the process. Having done that, start with the other departments. The best ideas come from the most unexpected places and an enterprise-wide network of open-minded people accelerates this process.

3. Suppliers

Depending on the sector you’re operating in, the next three steps could be started in whatever order. Start with the group which is most influenceable from your position.  In traditional markets those will be your suppliers. It is now time to get them around the table and talk about cooperative strategies. So, don’t start talking about integrating each other supply chain but about combining your innovation efforts. Share knowledge, share people, share managers. Get to know each other.

4. Customers

For companies in a Business-to-Business environment, this step will be easier than for companies in a Business-to-Consumer market. In B2B follow the process mentioned at step 3. Don’t be shy in sharing your knowledge about critical details. In B2C you’ll have to meet consumers and start talking about co-development and co-creation.

5. Competitors

Last but not least, your competitors. If your organization has development a strong Open Innovation strategy and made a reputation of an open-minded player, it is time to start talking to your competitors. Get involved in each other’s R&D-developments, research, suppliers, customers and mission statements. Go your own way if there is no cooperation possible, but work together if you could stay ahead of other competitors this way. Remember: the best people may be working for them and not for you.

Get started

Easier said than done, but this is a start. You’ll need a culture change, about which you’ll find more on this site. In what steps are you foreseeing the most problems? What things would you do different while starting implementing Open Innovation. Let’s co-create a better 5-step-model together.