Which science field has the most promising future?

Computer science
Nanotechnology
Biotechnology
Aerospace engineering
Ecology, resource saving
Cleantech
Other

What is the mankind's most dangerous invention?

Atomic bomb
Drugs
Automobile
Money
Television
Fast food
Internet

The End of the Great-Man Theory of Innovation

Collaborative innovation is the sort of concept that periodically seizes management circles. Most people have heard about it, something to do with mixed teams of insiders and outsiders. What most haven’t got their minds around is that as it moves from phenomenon to commonplace, collaborative innovation will change not only how innovation happens but how companies are run.

What people mean when they talk about collaborative innovation is typically something like Procter & Gamble’s (PG) close relationship with suppliers and contractors. P&G launched its Connect+Develop R&D program more than a decade ago and claims half its innovations come from outside the organization.

The future of collaborative innovation is a big step beyond that.

A cluster of factors is driving the change. The biggest is that the world’s supply of great talent isn’t equal to demand. Not surprisingly, the push for new ways of tapping talent is coming less from the C-suite than from operations managers, who need reliable access to specialized skills. Operations managers become increasingly creative in finding ways to mobilize their companies’ internal and external knowledge pool: They set up internal networks targeting employees across divisions and functions, or they take the next step and look for the hands-on skills needed outside the company.

The other factor is generational. Fresh talent is less eager than it once was to land a job inside even a prestigious company. More and more of the best would rather be outside, occasionally connected to an organization and occasionally connected to its competitors. Making this possible—and in many cases more efficient and effective—are the enabling technologies (cloud and mobile computing, for example) of a decentralized workforce.

Insider or outsider, each collaborator is animated by different goals and incentives. Understanding what makes them all go will be the principal task of innovative managers. And, of course, assuring the group’s work aligns with the company’s strategic objectives.

Managing collaborative teams will require formal structures yet to be invented. Our legal structure, for example, was designed for managing conventional relationships. But if, for instance, the only way to get access to the best minds in the world is to build an open network, how is intellectual property protected? Companies such as Philips (PHIA) or IBM (IBM) have overcome these hurdles, employing such strategies as setting up a pool of free patents as commons or standardizing licensing agreements to members in the network, such as smaller companies.

In the past decade companies such as InnoCentive and NineSigma emerged partly to manage these new challenges of open innovation. Operating like a clearing house for RFPs, they make marriages among clients and external specialists. Typically the relationship looks more like client and contractor. But many of the most challenging issues in innovation can’t be met without a reinvention of client and contractor roles, without true integration. One reason is trust—in the people and their ideas—as both might be completely new to each other. Another is company standards, such as engineering standards or tools, that might not be completely known to outsiders and therefore remain unmet by an external contractor.

Collaborative innovation does not mean R&D departments will go away. Successful R&D departments will be the ones reaching beyond themselves, finding solutions to problems whether they lie inside or outside. This success has been proven across industries—Philips in entertainment, General Electric (GE) in engineering, IBM in technology, or Kraft (KRFT) in consumer goods, to name a few.

Collaborative innovation will mean the end of the great-man theory of innovation. Before much longer, the differentiator among great mangers will be less individual brilliance and more skill in extracting value from a fluid network of internal and external parties. 

2013-07-11, BusinessWeek, Joerg Schrottke and Thomas Weber.


Keywords: innovations

11.07.2013
The End of the Great-Man Theory of Innovation
11.07.2013
INNOPROM 2013, International Ural Exhibition and Forum of Industry and Innovation, Yekaterinburg, Russia
09.07.2013
NAIRIT summarizes Regional Innovative activity Rating - 2012
09.07.2013
Silicon Valley Can’t Be Copied
08.07.2013
Contest-accelerator (BIT) received a record number of applications in 2013
04.07.2013
UGA research shows that financial analysts can stifle innovation
03.07.2013
Global Innovation Report - not all bad news for Russia
28.06.2013
Research team creates highly portable x-ray imaging system
25.06.2013
VEB Innovations Fund finances school social network
25.06.2013
Skolkovo to receive more than $600 mn in investment – top official
24.06.2013
Skolkovo Reality Becoming Less Virtual
21.06.2013
A KAMAZ model with intelligent systems will appear no earlier than 2016
13.06.2013
A Skolkovo school to appear in Novosibirsk
12.06.2013
World Innovation Forum, New York, USA
11.06.2013
France’s Aerys expects IT ideas from young Siberian innovators

Leave your comment
Sign up
Enter verification codeEnter verification code

Second Moscow International Foreign Investment Forum
Most popular news
Annual Investment Meeting 2013

Welcome to Investment. Innovation. Business Web Portal – a community-driven platform for all the participants of the investment process both in Russia and abroad!

We work to provide online information exchange between Russian and global investors and innovators, business owners and developers.