Is Open Innovation really collaborative?

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Is Open Innovation really collaborative?

Can we really talk about collaboration when using Open Innovation?

2018 was a busy year for me as an Open Innovation specialist.  I had the opportunity to speak to more than 170 Innovation / Open Innovation Directors in large groups across Europe.

One of my findings was that in most of these organisations, Open Innovation is either already implemented, or in the process of.

In 2017, we were still explaining the concepts, approaches and outcome of OI.  In 2018, for the majority of people met (more than 80%), Open Innovation is no longer an option.

However, the concerns have changed, and raised new questions:

The new concern we have identify is: how does Open Innovation contribute in creating collaboration ?

We see that interest communities, forums and groups have started to appear with collaboration in mind.

Unfortunately, it is difficult today to get value yet from this places, because some fundamentals are not yet settled.

The broker, a central player

Below, I propose my vision for this question, and what could lead to answers.

In 2003 in the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering publication, J. Rankin and C. Lendzion, introduced the term “Innovation Broker”.

The role of the broker in Open Innovation is essential because it is the central point of its opening. His role is  to provide a solution to the seekers

collaborative open innovation

The role of Broker can be handled externally (external consultants) or in-house (for example by ‘Technology Scouts’).

2018 has shown us the rise of in-house Technology scouting, which involves the creation of new position and skills. Companies like Safran created a dedicated Brokers team

In Open Innovation, multiple collaboration is possible

Internal collaboration (seeker-seeker) 

This collaboration, looks abvious, should be promoted before making “external” innovation. It remains very difficult to implement. because identifying the right internal expert within large groups is challenging. Some companies like Schneiner Electric decided to promote internal expertise within Open Innovation tools

The seeker’s external collaboration

This collaboration now raises many questions about confidentiality, and especially the seeker’s skills in handling negotiations / contracts as he is more appreciated for his technical skills.

This does not exclude the seeker from using collective intelligence for purposes other than problem solving, as shown in Article An example of state-of-the-art using open innovation.

This external collaboration therefore rather goes through the broker whose role is to identify potential partners and to build a collaborative ecosystem around the company’s strategic research programs.

A collaboration between brokers in a group

This kind of collaboration goes through a network or a internal community.

Today, this is the focal point of Open Innovation deployment : How to ensure internal Brokers collaborate together  ? How to ensure that information flows ? How to make sure there is no redundant contacts ? How to make sure that an outside solution is not already found elsewhere in the organization ?

A collaboration between brokers from different companies

This collaboration goes through a bigger cultural change. Whether it is a classic version of “community” or more modern type “Platform”, People are not yet ready for it

Collaborative Open Innovation, soon a reality? 

In conclusion, talking about collaboration between brokers from different companies, while the majority of  the corporate I met are having a hard time getting their teams to collaborate internally, is very futuristic.

Many obstacles prevent brokers from different companies to share information :

  • Confidentiality
  • Intellectual Property Management
  • Cost sharing
  • Divergence of points of view
  • Management support
  • R&D teams involvement

We are slowly getting there. After a first step in 2018 which consisted of moving toward Open Innovation, 2019 will be the milestone  that will bring ( or not!) confidence that OI can delver its promesses.

Collaborative years will probably arrive starting from 2020-2021.

Finally to answer the initial question: No! Open Innovation is not yet collaborative, but with changes in the mindsets, and culture, in the near future collaboration, Broker will play an important rôle in making it happen

By offering a collaborative and connected platform on the industrial and academic world, ideXlab offers the reference solution to innovate.

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