The Three Things Open Innovation Needs to Work

The Three Things Open Innovation Needs to Work

The Three Things Open Innovation Needs to Work

  • Posted by Dan Toma
  • On 04/10/2023

Outcome partnered with TechSauce for the 2023 global summit. Part of this partnership Outcome helped curate the corporate innovation track at this year’s event. Hence about two months ago I had the pleasure to host a panel discussion on the topic of open innovation in Bangkok. Given the prestige of the TechSauce stage, my panelists’ profiles were equally remarkable as they were diverse: Chen Gunayou (Deputy Director for  Strategy, Governance and International Relations at DesignSingapore Council), Sam Tanskul (Head of the Innovation Lab at Krungsri) and Scott Bales (Chief of Staff for APAC at Microsoft) 

Probably the question we spent the most time on discussing during the panel was around what is needed for open innovation to work in the context of large organizations such as government entities, corporations and educational institutions (eg. research institutes, universities etc.). 

Here are the top three things we all agreed are needed: 

1. Top leadership support.

Like with everything else innovation, support from the top of the organization is a must. This will ensure that the open innovation additives are properly funded and supported, and at the same time regarded as activities contributing to the company’s overall success and not just a ‘nice to have’ resources pit.

Furthermore for the people working on open innovation, support from the top of ‘the food chain’ will definitely be a moral booster. 

2. Clear innovation strategy.

Again, like with everything else innovation, a clear innovation strategy is a must. In the absence of a clear innovation strategy that’s also connected with the company’s overall strategic intent, the open innovation indicators will run the risk of being chaotic and not moving in the same direction. 

An Innovation Thesis will ensure that the open innovation activities are aligned with the company’s ambitions and in-sync with the internal innovation efforts. In essence it ensures that everyone is moving towards the same goals, whatever their approach might be.

3. Knowing exactly which open innovation engine (activity) to select for the desired outcome and given context.

Open innovation engines come in all shapes and sizes. From joint ventures to startup accelerator programs and from CVC to university collaborations, the options are endless. However, companies need to be deliberate about which engine they opt for, as they are not ‘one-size-fits-all’. An open innovation engine that offers the company the ability to learn about a certain technology or market trend, is most likely not going to be the one that’s all the most efficient in terms of financial returns. Conversely an open innovation engine that provides a lot of exposure for the company might not be the cheapest one to invest in. 

Therefore picking the right open innovation engine to match the company’s intent and strategy is crucial.  

As trivial as the things above might sound they are far from easy to put in place. And unfortunately, having only one or even two of the above in place will not ensure the success of your open innovation works. You might have all the support in the company and you might know exactly what kind of open innovation engine you want to commit to, but in the absence of a strategy there will be chaos. Equally, a good strategy with sufficient support won’t be enough to see ROI from open innovation (whichever form it might take) if you are picking the wrong open innovation engine to invest in. 

Therefore if you want to increase your chances of succeeding with open innovation you need to have the right level support, a clear Innovation Thesis and pick the right open innovation engine for your desired outcomes and strategic intent.

This article was originally published on the Open Innovation Works book’s blog, here.