Getting started with open innovation and developing the right foundation for open innovation has been a key challenge at many companies in the last three to five years. Now, internal as well as external forces are moving these companies towards the next level of open innovation in which we go beyond just products and technology and start to explore how a more open and collaborative mindset can be applied to all more business units and functions. Think procurement and engineering as examples.

This change is stressful to any organization as it brings out new challenges – and opportunities – that must be addressed in order to unlock the full potential of open innovation. They include:

Understand the current state of open innovation in your company, your industry and beyond.

Who are the leaders and what do they do better than do? How can you learn from them? This requires some extensive research and mapping capabilities, but most of all it requires that you know the right questions to ask in the context of open innovation management. Do you?

Open innovation done right leads to corporate transformation.

If you do open innovation right, your organization becomes more transparent, it becomes much more focused on the outside potential and you learn to experiment much better. You even become better at letting go of control. You become faster and more agile. Some CEO’s run away scared when they realize how this journey happens, but those who stay on course will soon see the opportunities that a solid open innovation program can bring for transforming the company itself.

Train executives on innovation.

Corporate innovators say that their job becomes easier, when their executives know what they are doing in the context of innovation management. Yet, when I speak with corporate innovators around the world, I sense a big challenge on this specific question: How can corporate innovation teams and leaders better train and educate their executives on innovation management? This is not easy, but the key element I have found here is peer learning. Executives listen to and learn from other executives. Your job – together with HR – is to create the right settings for this.

Set up internal open innovation efforts if you are not fully ready to work with external partners.

Yes, there is a term such as internal open innovation and this happens in large organizations where business units and maybe even functions almost feel like external partners to each other. They are not fully coordinated in their work with each other and there is a lot of potential in getting them to innovate better together.

But the best part is the learning platform this provides for you. The issues on intellectual property are easier to deal with because the involved partners are within the same holding structure and if you mess up there is much less of chance that this goes public. Internal open innovation can be your perfect playground for experimentation on new approaches.

I could add more challenges and opportunities to consider as companies go to the next level of open innovation, but I think we have enough for this to work as a discussion starter. Your thoughts?

By Stefan Lindegaard

About the author

Stefan Lindegaard is a Copenhagen-based author, speaker and strategic advisor.  His focus on corporate transformation and innovation management based on leadership, the work force and organizational structures has propelled him into being a trusted source of inspiration to many large corporations, government organizations and smaller companies. He believes business today requires an open and global perspective and he has given talks and worked with companies in Europe, North America, South America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
In his role as a strategic advisor and coach, Stefan Lindegaard provides external perspectives and practical advice for executives and corporate transformation and innovation teams. He is a widely respected writer and he has written several books including The Open Innovation Revolution published globally. You can follow his work on LinkedIn Pulse.