What is Your Open Innovation Partnering Approach?

by Kevin McFarthing

What is Your Open Innovation Partnering Approach?Open Innovation is now an accepted methodology for enhancing your new product or service development pipeline.  It is deployed to varying degrees depending on the industry or even the company attitude.

There are many different approaches to finding and engaging with external partners, including technology scouting and corporate portals.  But which is the best?  Unsurprisingly, the answer is “it depends”, on several factors.  For example, do you already know each other, does one party know about the other, or are you mutually unknown?  For many large organizations, either the company name or one of their brands is known.  That’s always a good start.

In order to give some structure to your partnering approach, it’s worth a sanity check to see whether your approach is optimal. The diagram below is one way of doing this.

Kevin McFarthing Article Table

The best place to start in any OI initiative is the people you already know.  You have the relationships and systems in place and, particularly if your innovation is incremental, you are likely to find the solution ready and waiting.

It’s dangerous to always rely on the same people.  You will lose out on diversity of input, become complacent and ultimately lose competitiveness.  You should always be open to approaches from outside that could be better than your current options, or even give you the chance to develop something completely new.

That’s where corporate portals such as Kraft’s Innovate With Kraft or Reckitt Benckiser’s RB-Idealink come in.  They can channel ad hoc proposals from outside to the same decision point, protect the rights of both parties and find genuinely new propositions.  Of course they’re useless unless people know about them, so they should be accompanied by some publicity to help drive traffic to the sites.

Corporate portals are also useful as the centerpiece of your publicity, the theme on which you can build.  In other words, it’s the cover on the book rather than the book itself.

Last, but certainly not least, you can use your own people to target leads where you believe future partnerships could result.  These “technology scouts” are your front line troops, spending most of their time out of the office networking and securing new opportunities for the future.

Scouts and portals are just two of the tools that organizations can deploy in OI.   Whether it is these, Open Problem Solving, competitions or intermediaries, you can use a matrix like the one above to help you understand what you want to do and where you should deploy your resources.  That way you’ll be able to assess whether you are using the best methods you can to secure additional growth options over and above what you already possess.

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Kevin McFarthingKevin McFarthing runs the Innovation Fixer consultancy, helping companies to improve the output and efficiency of their innovation, and to implement Open Innovation. He spent 17 years with Reckitt Benckiser in innovation leadership positions, and also has experience in life sciences.

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