Why now is the best time to do “Open Innovation“

Lighthouse MOLO17 open innovation

MOLO17 is a company that develops innovative digital products since 2015. All the members of the team follow agile work principles and adopt remote-first working politics. With these assumptions, it becomes easier to comprehend why MOLO17 keeps a close eye on “Open Innovation” issues.

Today we share the thought of Linus Dahlander and Martin Wallis, who published on Harvard Business Review in June 2020 an article, “Why now is time for Open Innovation”.

Linus Dahlander is a researcher focused on innovation, specialized in crowdsourcing, open innovation and online community. He is a professor at the European School of Management and Technology. Martin Wallin is a professor in Innovation Management and is head of the entrepreneurship and strategy department at the Chalmers University of Technology.

Why is this article on open innovation interesting for MOLO17

This article begins with a description of the current Coronavirus-related scenario as an interesting opportunity: in the opinion of the authors, in fact, in a counterintuitive way, this difficult period has stimulated collaborations guided more from value-generation than from revenue-generation, addressing examples from corporations such as Siemens, Scania and Ford.

This happens in countertrend with the majority habit noticed in the last decade, that saw large companies training enthusiastically on the subject but ending up unable to apply it. That’s why the authors emphatically describe the scenario they perceived: opportunities of creating value and foundations on which to build future collaborations, cemented by the common will of getting out from their comfort zone and overcoming their limits.

Dahlander and Wallin propose a five short-lessons list to remember in order to maximize the energies dedicated to the implementation of open innovation strategies, standing on the crest of the new wave of virtuous entrepreneurship driven by wide-ranging, long-term visions.

Open innovation: don’t put intellectual property in the first place

The first lesson of the academic duo quotes a fact: recent studies tell that many companies, due to fear of important „leaks“ from their research, end up collaborating externally only on minor subjects.

This is understandable, but it inevitably slows down the path to knowledge growth, in a time when it would be better to create rather than to capture value.

The authors write those smart companies are those who trust their already carefully selected interlocutors, collaborating in crucial activities, without risking negative exposure. In support of their opinion, they tell the case of Scania, global manufacturing excellence: sharing their best engineers with the company partners they avoid the spread of information and they apply their know-how in co-designed projects.

Counting on all involved partners motivation

Second recommendation: understand what really motivates the components of the team. The proposed assumption, in fact, supports that, after the initial enthusiasm, open innovation projects are often based on the active and voluntary participation of employees and partners. In these contexts, the classical approach command & control does not work, it becomes necessary to motivate the team components with genuine attention towards their personal goals.

For example, some software developers are delighted to share their work to create a valid online portfolio, others are more driven by ethical values related to quality, reusability and modifiability of the code, while some corporates are anxious to share time and resources in order to pull on the potentiality of the community to repay the effort with competence and complementary assets.

Individuating and growing relations with new partners

The third lesson is a common challenge, finding new partners. The costs of research, validation and compliance are always relevant, as are those to create a new human relationship with people involved. But, even more during this Covid-19-related crisis, counting on new partners capable of bringing competencies and complementary perspectives is fundamental.

The crisis, in fact, has made it easier for the implementation of these initiatives in two different ways. First, the top management has reduced risk for all the involved actors in many areas, stimulating smart and out-of-schemes collaborative modalities. Secondly, the global impact of this situation is putting many similar companies in the same condition and, because of that, these companies are increasing the number of organizations researching complementary partners looking for innovation.

The urgency for problem-solving pushes towards the transformation

Typical open innovation initiatives in „normal times“ involve hiring consultants, generating an innovation tournament and waiting for a series of ideas to be evaluated, even if the results are often poor. To achieve high-quality levels, companies have to preventively identify the transformation challenge that they have to face.

In times of crisis, smart companies seize the opportunity to renovate their innovation-related business units. The authors take as an example the educational sector, in which they operate, that has seen, more than the others, a radical change in the daily delivery of services, having to fully digitize lessons in a very little time. Their point of view is that often the biggest obstacle towards innovation is just the negligence in spending much time in it.

Looking to the future and to its promising developments towards open innovation

Ultimately, Dahlander and Wallin ask themselves how long these observations will remain effective in the next future, mostly when the situation will return to normality. They add to this question another one, related to our capacity, as a society, to face enormous challenges that have not disappeared but have just moved their impact to a temporal scale that is less urgent than the one of the actual trend, like global warming. The answers we wish to lie in the hope that collectivity has understood that identifying a common enemy can unlock velocity, solidity and creativity in an incredible and collective way.

A thought for managers: crisis modify behaviors and the preferences of clients, employees and partners. An open innovation strategy can bring flexibility and can make the company’s path stable, even in rough waters. Don’t plan how to preserve, plan how to progress.

Conclusion: MOLO17 is open innovation, sharing and confrontation

With this showcase, MOLO17 wants to tell which themes are affecting the evolutionary strategy of the company. The aim is to share with an open approach the sources considered most valuable, the most interesting information and the approach with which the company interprets innovation.

If you like this kind of article and you have similar topics to talk about, ask for an e-coffee with its author, Riccardo Mazzolo.

Wir kennen nur ein Fünftel von dem, was in der Tiefe ist. Alles andere muss noch erforscht werden.

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