Managing Open Innovation Roadblocks

by Paul Hobcraft

Managing Open Innovation RoadblocksI always find thoughtful lists as extremely helpful to prompt my thinking on different issues. It often helps to unblock my own thinking. This one is for open innovation.

One such list I compiled from mainly two sources on roadblocks to open innovation. The main source was Dr Brian Glassman. He wrote a paper Open Innovation’s Common Issues & Potential Roadblocks with Dr Abram Walton and different thoughts that I found as well worked through. The other source to make up this list was from P&G’s experiences gleaned from different sources. Together I feel they make for a solid list of roadblocks or issues to think through. Let me share these:

First the core need or use of open innovation:

  1. Generating ideas for new products and services
  2. Solve technical problems that are vexing or to complicated or expensive to solve internally
  3. Co-development of difficult problems, services, products, technologies

Issues & Potential Roadblocks

  1. Internal buy-in- quick wins, types of motivations- how to tackle this?
  2. Changing the culture is a big challenge. Shifting from inventing everything internally and owning all the Intellectual Property (IP) to an open culture, with shared risks and rewards is a huge leap. You find that not everyone embraces open innovation at the same speed, or to the same degree.
  3. It is important that employees realized that any open innovation was not another name for downsizing and outsourcing jobs but instead, a strategy to ensure sustained business growth for the Company. Leveraging open innovation as a way to increase capacity for our internal researchers makes sense as a key message
  4. Recognize early to concentrate on what we do really well internally and look to partners externally in instances where they can either do better or faster to bring products to market more quickly
  5. Build rewards and recognition into the career development related to open innovation recognizing its value to the organization and its learning.
  6. Change the mindset of open innovation as a ‘threat’ to open innovation as an ‘productivity enabler’.
  7. You have to champion the early adopters. Whether it’s an individual or a business, you take those who are on-board, passionate, and have embraced open innovation and you make heroes of them to the rest of the business.
  8. It’s a process that begins with networking and building relationships, and grows into productive business transactions that benefit both participants as well as consumers.
  9. Approaching ‘partner understanding’ in a similar way to consumer understanding. To become the ‘partner of choice’ requires being outwardly focused to understand partner’s needs, concerns, expectations, goals, etc. and finding ways to delight them at the first moment of truth (their initial contact as a potential partner) and the second moment of truth (during the collaboration).
  10. And at the monetary level, ensuring that partnerships are truly a win/win for both sides.
  11. Set out to coach internally and ask the question “Would you sign for either side?” In doing so, we increase the likelihood of repeat partnerships. And we build a solid reputation as a true partner of choice.
  12. Establishing trust with your open partners- reputation, honesty, avoiding overly aggressive negotiations, prompt and clear communications, IP openness
  13. Intellectual Property – complex and often central, full ownership tussles, limited disclosures, fair split on inputs, commitments, resources, capital
  14. Corporate lawyer blocks – core beliefs in potential conflict with open disclosures, at what point involve them, oral agreement stage or before, required buy-ins
  15. IP category blocks – the class the IP falls in, open, who benefits, competitive positions, weapons of defense to block future options, issues of internal security
  16. Payment systems – typical payment process large vs. Small, how and when to pay, pay on milestones, be clear on this
  17. Communications – central capability in finding, evaluating and working, the types of person as communicators, champions, connectors, the mindset needed and determination required to break down barriers, knowing the different channels to answers to unblock.
  18. Structure of the initiative – a web page of officers, connection details, spamming, unlisted hot numbers, availability and response mechanisms, extroverts, mindset based on a deep desire to connect and communicate, proper, active and trustworthy statements of intent
  19. Clear & Stated Agreement Established at the Beginning of the Relationship – establish a clear understanding and broad agreement on vital issues, the ‘up front work’ is critical
  20. Clear, Descriptive and Motivating RFP – these communicate the corporate needs to the open innovation network. RFP’s usual sections – opportunity area, problem statement, detailed information where possible (costs, pressures, priority, value, numbers) and anything felt to be relevant to improve submissions. Not too tight, not to lose, easy to read, well structured and financial rewards potential options
  21. Limiting Participation – often more work examining the proposals than resources to complete this. Pre-qualify partners through screening, widen criteria if needed later.
  22. Unfocused open innovation programs – go off in any direction, benefits of quick wins, create wish lists of clear wins, based on core area of use (application), great potential areas, vexing problems, high value solutions, finding valuable new capabilities or new resources
  23. Facing the unknowns – no journey is without problems, face these squarely on and admit to shortcoming quickly. We are no longer islands of knowledge, we need to learn.
  24. The skills needed to succeed are their adaptability to change, entrepreneurial skills, sensible risk taking behaviors. Being able to identify and remove organizational roadblocks to open innovation. Continual questioning of status quo and looking ahead to find new solutions. Actively working internally to drive culture change, while remaining laser focused externally at consumer needs
  25. Encourage a more active involvement in real life work settings vs. in the lab.
  26. Provide settings to give as many people as you can real life business experience, and provide jobs to students and faculty in different imaginative ways. A great example could be strong university collaboration partnerships that over time work really well.

These do provide a good working-through type of list, to help get you into a better open innovation shape and be more prepared to tackle issues as and when they come up. Hope you find it useful, I do.


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Paul HobcraftPaul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities.

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