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Internal Innovation Infrastructure to Drive Open Innovation


By Jeff Boehm

When Henry Chesbrough published his book on Open Innovation he crystallized a vision and a strategy for how companies can capitalize on the wealth of great ideas coming from outside their company. Something that Procter and Gamble tapped into with their Connect and Develop strategy  several years earlier, based on their understanding that for every P&G researcher there were at least 200 equally qualified scientists or engineers outside of P&G. If P&G – or any company – can tap into that almost limitless resource of good ideas, it can become an incredible driver for innovation.

Open Innovation is certainly alluring. And there are many great stories and successes that have come from open innovation initiatives. But there are also many carcasses lining the open innovation road. At the recent Open Innovation Summit in Chicago I had the opportunity to join an innovation “think tank” panel and help articulate what we saw as the key ingredients to innovation success. You can see what we came up with here.

But beyond these highly visible characteristics, one additional key factor that many presenters echoed was the need to have a strong internal innovation foundation. Before you go scouting for ideas and innovations from outside your company, you need to have a strong process for handling ideas and innovations from inside your company.  If that foundation is not in place, you will find that those great ideas coming in won’t see the light of day. And worse than missing out on the business opportunities they represent, your company will develop a reputation for not being open and only using the “open innovation” moniker for its buzz factorInnovation Intelligence Ecosystem.

A solid innovation foundation is one that spans the ideation to productization lifecycle. It ensures that not only are great ideas harvested from across – and outside – your organization, but that you have a consistent process in place to bring those ideas into the product lifecycle. It is a foundation that recognizes that innovation is not just about new product development or the “advanced technology” team. Innovation is about identifying new markets, extending the life of existing products, improving production processes, extracting more value from your IP, and myriad other activities that happen every day, across your organization.

In addition to the cultural elements that were heavily emphasized at the Open Innovation Conference, that foundation should integrate three key elements: the communities of innovators across your organization, consistent methodologies and processes for performing the every day innovation tasks, and the information – both internal and external – needed to support those activities.

Integrating those three elements together into a comprehensive “Innovation Intelligence Ecosystem” will go a long way to making innovation a sustainable practice within your organization. And in turn, having this internal innovation infrastructure will improve your ability to take advantage of the great ideas and innovations that may come in through your open innovation initiative.