The reason for creating a networking culture is obvious once you look at the current and future direction of innovation. Let’s start by disposing of the myth of the lone genius — the Thomas Edisons and the Alexander Graham Bells of yesteryear — arriving at a breakthrough innovation on his/her own.
This model wasn’t true then, and even if it were, it simply does not hold true in today’s complex business organizations. Technology and the challenges that must be solved have become so complex that many — perhaps even most — companies can no longer rely solely on their own internal innovation geniuses, no matter how brilliant those people may be.
Innovation is increasingly about having groups of people come together to leverage their diverse talents and expertise to solve multi-faceted challenges that cross multiple disciplines. To make this happen within your organization — and beyond as you move toward open innovation — requires a networking culture that is designed, supported, and modeled by your company’s leaders.
Even organizations that are not ready to fully embrace open innovation are finding that employees ’ mindsets about networking must be stretched as more companies deploy internal R & D functions outside the corporate headquarters and around the world.
Employees start to wonder who should do innovation and where it should take place. Although this is positive, success in such situations depends heavily on the ability of the employees to initiate, solidify, and leverage external relationships.
Another key motivation for setting up networking initiatives is based on the simple fact that the knowledge of any company is inside the heads of the employees. Discovering and distributing this knowledge has always been a challenge, and now, more than ever, the ability to leverage a company’s collective knowledge and experience through virtual and face – to – face networks and communities is critical to innovation.
Furthermore, establishing the ability to bring knowledge and potential new innovation insights in from external sources demands a strong networking culture supported and modeled from the top.
In one of my next posts, I will give some advice on how to create a networking culture.