Thursday, August 27, 2009

Are you the right 'Open Innovation' change agent ?

There is an on-going debate about why Open Innovation does not happen easily and is not widely spread among most major Corporations while, on paper, its management philosophy and aim may appear quite obvious. Even Corporations that have officially adopted this innovation strategy and management seem still to face difficulties to implement it effectively and in a sustainable way.
With the feedback and know-how we, at bluenove, are progressively adding up from the different 'Open & Collaborative Innovation' missions, from workshops to long-term projects we have been implementing for almost 2 years with our customers in many sectors, and recently sharing about this topic with Carlos Diaz (CEO at Bluekiwi Software), it appears clearer to me that when it does happen effectively, it is because the teams or the Manager, i.e the Corporate employees managing it, have a set of specific skills, backgroup and motivations.

To make it short, my point is that the Open Innovation 'Change Agent(s)' within an organisation who will be the one(s) delivering OI at the end of the day have to manage some risks and opportunities, as employee(s), that are a bit different from the ones their colleagues in other jobs and departments deal with.

Some of the risks handled by the 'Open Innovation' Change agent within a Corporation:
> interact online more and more often in a real-time 'Web 2.0' mode with external partners (startups, Developers, experts, etc.) thus facing Brand & Legal related issues and dilemas about 'if,what,how' to answer and give feedback, while handling the pressure to answer back fast enough
> appear too pushy when promoting ideas/products/services from 'external' partners
> appear towards the Communication & Brand department as the one always trying to put the Brand at risk: proposing co-branded related initiatives, Press Release involving a partner, experiencing frustrations from the Brand team about brand related framewoks and format constraints, etc.
> appear towards the Legal department as the one managing Partnership contracts issues as too much in favor of the 'external' partner
> appear towards the Purchasing department as the one disturbing the Procurement processes when 'dealing' with small (and weak) startups rather than other big (well structured) corporations
> appear towards the R&D team as sometimes careless about IP issues

On the opportunities side, the right 'OI change agent' will be the one :
> enjoying acting as the 'external partner' Champion within his Corporation and facing his colleagues: helpind among other things the startup or Developer to not get lost and exhausted contacting and meeting with all the decision stake-holders
> enjoying the connexions and contacts with new companies and people outside the walls of the company
> commited to deliver sometimes not aligned objectives and timings for both his employer company and the partner
> viewing, and being open about it, these external contacts also as opportunities for future jobs
> enjoying and sharing the 'creative vibes' from entrepreneurs and developers
> not feeling bad and ashamed fighting for budgets and expenses for things such as events and travels

As a employee, if you truly see these as Risks and Opportunities, you are probably the right 'Open Innovation Change agent' for your Corporation.
If you are the HR person in charge of searching and identifying the 'Open Innovation' Manager/Team Member within or outside your Corporation, this is a check-list of criteria to make sure he/she feels in line in terms of skills, background and mind.
The best guarantee for an enjoyable job and an efficiently delivered Open Innovation approach.

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