Open Innovation: What skills and competences are needed?

  • Posted on: 18 September 2018
  • By: violeta

As discussed in previous INVITE‘s blog post, innovation is seen as one of the most important concerns of every organisation and therefore constituting a critical success factor for it. However, the current landscape of highly competitive and dynamic business environment makes innovation more challenging in terms of risks and costs. The good news, notwithstanding the challenges, hide in Open innovation (OI) – the new approach of innovation, that is beeing adopted by companies, including SMEs, in order to decrease the risks and costs of innovation and simultaneously enhance their own innovative capacity. Some businesses use OI to add value to their exsiting products and services, while others employ it in order to gain more information for developing new ones.

There is no doubt OI facilitates success. Some great examples come from companies such as Lego, which engages their users in community to share Lego designs and pictures in order to gain ideas for new products development; or Philips – having a broad range of activities applying open innovation through a platform, challenges and its own High Tech Campus in Eindhoven (The Netherlands) since 2003 – collaborating tightly with tech companies making use of majority of their projects, even the ones that otherwise could have been left behind.

An endless pool of evidences exists indicating the significance of open innovation for the prospect of business and value creation. Nonetheless without action and practical application, one could not rip off the benefits that OI comes to offer. 

But what are the skills and competences necessary to make OI work?  

CLEAR GOALS

Many experts point out the importance of having your goals and expectations set when it comes to open innovation, both from corporate and project perspective. OI processes and goals should be clearly outlined. The lay out creates trust as all participants percieve a clear idea of the process and what are the foreseen outcomes. Respectively, having clear goals is very helpful when unexpected issues or disturbances occur, because it fosters collaboration and adaptiveness – two key elements when it comes to OI. 

On a more practical level, reliable goals and timelines build trust in collaboration. Some of the following questions can help when setting up goals:

  • What are the objectives? 
  • Who owns the results?
  • What problems should open innovation solve?
  • What are the timelines and milestones?

COLLABORATION

Collaboration is a very vital part when we talk about OI. It is not just a process but a shift in the mindset. A mindset, which implies to be open minded about ideas coming in from outside sources. Therefore, a natural course to start OI is through collaboration with existing and familiar partnerships and networks. Taking advantage of already established connections make open collaboration easier and quick for a kick-off. Why? Because the already existing knowledge on one another creates trust between the parties.

Activating collaboration comes from generating interesting questions. Although, they should not be too broad or too simple. Having your goals clearly set helps elaborating interesting topics and well-defined problems that can motivate people and generate value. In fact, good facilitation – of dicussion and professional guidance, boosts collaboration and provides the right supervision of promoting participation that is active as well as productive. 

GIVE TO GET 

A key element when it comes to OI collaboration is to understand that OI is not just to receive and get something without providing back - one of the main motivations when it comes to collaboration.

According to Prof H. Chesbrough “Open innovation is the use of purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation, and expand the markets for external use of innovation, respectively. [This paradigm] assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as they look to advance their technology.”

Certainly, monetary awards are traditional trade-offs. However, for groundbreaking innovations a serious funding is needed. Therefore, bearing the risks is a good way to motivate participants as well as providing incentives as the project develops, and surely, exchanging knowledge and giving expertise. 

TRANSPARENCY

Transparency is another main pillar in open innovation. According to Denys Resnick, former Chief Growth Officer of NineSigma, transparency “makes companies more competitive.  „It allows R&D departments to build ongoing relationships with external providers that come to know their strategies and even anticipate their needs.” It also boosts innovation, generates economies of scale and fosters collaboration, predictability and trust. 

Being open about problems and challenges that are present, could open doors to right and new solutions. 

RIGHT CHANNELS

A good approach to start OI is often face-to-face, especially during initial pilot phases where various concepts are tested. However, with time variable in mind, brainstorming and innovation face-to-face could become ineffective and counterproductive in problem-solving. On the other hand, online collaboration creates a lot of opportunities such as: 

  • disregards constraints such as time and location
  • is cost and time effective
  • speeds up documentation and feedback process

Keeping timelines, using a combination of both face-to-face and online means for collaboration, and a sense of commitment create the right environment to foster open innovation and knowledge flow.

In this sense, the OI2Lab platform, designed and implemented through the Horizon 2020 Innovation Action “INVITE”, addresses all these necessary skills and competences through a series of online and offline services. These services will not only be delivered through an online platform for SMEs and e-learning interventions, but also face-to-face, via telephone, email, video conference or webchat to help its users articulate their innovation or technology capabilities and screen potential collaboration partners. The services will also set up and manage cross-border collaborations as well as identify and secure sources of both public funding and private finance. Along these lines, OI2 Lab will complement the market by using a multi-sided, trans-border approach offering its services to bridge the gaps in the European OI market.

Short CV of the Author

Violeta VasilevaVioleta Vasileva has a MSc degree in Business Intelligence and Process Management from the Berlin School of Economics and Law. She has been involved in working with the EU Commission, NGOs, start-ups and corporations, supporting projects for research and  innovation, as well as digitalization.