Why are some companies better at open innovation?

One of the nice things about this job is discovering intermediary organisations that are working to the same ends – to understand and promote open innovation.   I was at a Global Business Partnership Alliance (GBPA) workshop  recently where we explored the statement ‘Innovation in the future will demand that historically adversarial relationships be replaced by co-operative relationships based on trust and openness.’ I couldn’t agree more and what was interesting is that GBPA go on to define the ‘vital signs’ of those companies well equipped to change their behaviour.  I sum these up as a kind of ‘corporate empathy’ which embraces good communications skills, habitual transparency and a commitment to partners’ interests that is rare in today’s dog-eat-dog world.  We looked at a case study – Chrysler’s well-known supplier cost reduction exercise (SCORE).  The trouble is, I’m not convinced this is truly co-operative innovation.  Chrysler gives the competing suppliers a ‘choice’ of passing on all savings generated or keeping half of them, with a ‘bearing’ on the future relationship.  Sounds like Hobson’s choice to me and if you’re a hard-pressed small firm the odd $5m today can go a long way.  NESTA’s Open Alchemy programme is, I like to think, a bit more forward-looking as it’s about future profits not past costs and it’s a bit more open-minded in that suppliers such as Oracle are on a level playing field with their clients such as BT or Pfizer. 

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