I have noticed three main ways in which leaders and managers fail on open innovation. These causes of failure focus on networking, ideas and X-vision. I also have a couple of suggestions on how to work with this.

They lack the understanding of why a networking culture is important for open innovation. In a world of open innovation, you need to be an expert at networking and building relationships. This holds true at the corporate as well as the personal level. So this is my question to leaders and managers; where is your strategy, commitment and structure needed to create a networking culture?

WHAT TO DO: First, leaders and managers need to “get” the importance of networking. As open innovation grows they will hear of many cases that showcases why a networking culture is important. This will help them get it.

You can also expose leaders and managers to organizational network analyses to let them know of organizational networking status. Check out Rob Cross and his work on www.robcross.org.

Then they can initiate more operational minded initiatives. I know of a Vice President at a global company who is experimenting on this. The VP has identified 5 people from their innovation unit already having some external contacts within different fields. They have been given a budget and the very open-ended goal to spend 2009 establishing relationships that could lead to new kinds of innovation. They will learn as they go and adjust goals and budgets as they go.

They focus on ideas, not people. Companies can generate lots of ideas through idea harvesting campaigns internally as well as externally. They might have a problem on finding the right ideas and issues on how to qualify ideas. However, the biggest problem with ideas is that they do not attach the right people in the right phases to the ideas.

WHAT TO DO: Look for people who keep following up on the ideas they submit. You have scores of employees who submit ideas and expect others to deliver on this. Nothing happens in such cases. If you have a persistent and qualified contributor - and a good idea - things can happen fast. Leaders and managers should also be aware that there is a big difference between a core project and a new business project and they should staff new business projects with people having a mindset and toolbox that matches this different challenge.

They lack the X-vision. If you want to create significant innovation you must be able to work across business functions and with many types of innovation to turn ideas into profitable products, services or business methods. I call this X-vision. Leaders and managers are often promoted because they excel within just one business function such as R&D, sales, supply chain or finance. They have difficulties seeing across functions and to combine several elements within a value chain and innovation process. They lack the X-vision and they do not train their employees on this.

WHAT TO DO: This is very much about mindset and besides training and coaching, leaders, managers and employees can develop a better X-vision through job rotation programs.

About the Author

Stefan Lindegaard is a speaker, network facilitator and strategic advisor helping companies on the topics of open innovation, intrapreneurship and how to identify and develop the people who drive innovation. He also runs several communities on LinkedIn including Leadership+Innovation with more than 600 innovation leaders. You can read further on www.stefanlindegaard.com

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