It sounds almost too obvious, but alas it isn't. I've seen many a large organisation get so wrapped up in their open innovation process to the extent that they completely forget to tell anybody external about it thereby rendering the entire endeavour pointless. Don't forget to talk to people about what you are doing or are looking for, through as many communications channels as possible.
Your critics can be your most valuable collaborators. I've seen one large company act totally out of all proportion when their PR department discovered a single negative blog post (with negligible readership) about their open innovation initiative. They wanted to exclude said blogger from the process, which would have almost certainly led to more negative coverage. In the end we persuaded them to engage in a conversation which was challenging but ultimately hugely beneficial.
There is a sequence of activities that occur in open innovation that cannot be bypassed. Namely you start with lots of conversations, some of which will lead to a smaller number of some kind of relationships. Importantly trust needs to be earned and takes time to develop. Eventually, some transactions will follow that create value. So when starting with open innovation, as well as asking 'what is the idea/technology/opportunity?' it is crucial to also ask the question 'who are the potential collaborators and how can we get to know them better?'.
Hierarchies work primarily through 'command and control' whereas informal networks work through 'trust'. Both are crucial but mixing the two can be fatal. Don't do it. All complex innovation challenges now involve hierarchies – which are multiple hierarchies interwoven with multiple informal networks – and we need to understand them both. According to social network guru Karen Stephenson, at any point in time, informal networks trump hierarchy, however over time hierarchies trump informal networks. In other words informal networks have power but hierarchies preserve longevity.
According to psychologist Stuart Sutherland, the inability to suspend judgement is one of the most prevalent aspects of irrational. And yet suspending judgement and being open to new ideas and opinions is also a vital component that allows unconventional and innovative ideas to develop and grow. Most of us like to think of our selves as rational beings and yet why can so few of us suspend judgement. Try it…you never know what might happen?
Open innovation is not about selling certainty, it's all about managed uncertainty. Open innovation is all about shared reward and without stepping outside of your comfort-zone it will be very difficult to drive the process forward. Procter and Gamble estimate that only one in a hundred good ideas make it to market whether they come from within or outside, but external ideas will often have greater potential. Of course you should manage your risk but be very careful not to overdo it.
The single biggest thing that squashes most innovation is a lack of momentum which kills all hope of any getting an innovation getting to market. All too often this happens for valid reasons like seeking consensus around multiple departments. It can be really helpful to have a clear and quick process agreed up front, and preferably published to the outside world so there is little chance you can renege on that commitment, whilst recognising the need to be flexible if necessary too.
As Bill Joy of Sun Microsystems so eloquently once said 'Not all the smart people work for you'. We estimate that 99% of the solutions to all of your innovation problems are already out there somewhere. And yet most organisations focus 99% of their innovation efforts on inventing new stuff. We would argue that to be successful at open innovation make sure you network as hard within the organisation as outside. So go and find the smart people and listen to what they have to say as ccombining different perspectives is key any innovation.