Here are four key elements that are necessary for turning an open innovation strategy into a success:
• Stakeholder Analysis. You must get an overview of your internal and external stakeholders and analyze the pros and cons of the open innovation initiative for these people. Who will be affected by the open innovation intention? What issues bother these people? How can you create a value proposition that will make the stakeholders support the initiative?
One approach is to create a stakeholder map that identifies all the various groups that might be impacted by your open innovation initiative, then develop specific value propositions for each group. Don’t forget to focus on informal influencers, that is, people with a disproportionate level of influence. Find these people and win them over to your cause, and it will be easier to build the innovation DNA.
• Communication Strategy. Strong communication programs are important at any time within an organization, but never more so than when open innovation is your goal. Without a good communications strategy, your odds for success do not look good. To move forward, people need to know where to go and how to get there. Knowing the strategic goals motivates people and builds a collective sense of purpose. So put a communications plan in place before you even start. Make sure you take every opportunity to turn good news into a story that can work internally as well as externally. The latter is especially useful if recruitment is a serious issue.
Obviously, communicating within a small company is easier than in a large corporation. But that doesn’t mean that developing a solid communications plan is any less important. In a small company, it might be easier for one or two people to throw a wrench into the works, so it’s important that everyone understand why open innovation is important to your company’s future and what they need to do to get on board.
• Common Language. A key objective of your communication strategy is to develop a shared language about open innovation—and innovation in general—within your company. When everyone uses the same language, it is significantly easier to frame the problems and ideas in ways that everyone can understand and relate to.
Large corporations often develop this common language by bringing in outside experts to educate and train people. Small companies may not be able to afford that but there are other ways to get the job done. For example, you can provide people with books and articles about open innovation and then hold discussions to pull out key terms and their definitions that people should become familiar with. Make sure you and your leadership team use this language in company presentations and meetings. Slowly but surely, the language will begin to filter throughout the organization and become part of the company’s shared vocabulary.
• Networked Innovation Culture. One must-have component of a strong innovation culture is a strong networking culture. To thrive in an innovation environment that becomes increasingly open and externally oriented, people throughout your organization need to be capable of building and sustaining relationships both internally and externally.
An innovation culture does not create itself and the same goes for a networking culture. This requires a top-down approach in which you and your leadership team craft a strategy, set the goals, and provide the means and tools for networking initiatives. In addition, you need to find ways to be personally involved in networking to convince employees that you are serious.
It may feel like taking the role of chief networker is adding a huge job to your already crowded to-do list, and it probably is. But open innovation won’t happen without a strong networking culture and serving as a role model is essential.