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The Missing Link in Open Innovation

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by Startacus Admin

open innovation
"Although a lot of companies are now talking about open innovation and developing start-up collaboration programmes, it’s fair to say that not an enormous number are doing it well." Oliver Camp, Account Manager at McCann Enterprise shares his thoughts and experiences on open and collaborative innovation.

If there’s one problem with big gatherings of like-minded people, it’s that it's too easy for us to all get a bit too pleased with ourselves. To some extent, that was the trouble with SXSW this year – at least from the point of view of corporate / start-up collaboration, which is where my focus lies.

Although a lot of companies are now talking about open innovation and developing start-up collaboration programmes, it’s fair to say that not an enormous number are doingopen innovation it well. That’s no criticism. It’s simply because this is very new ground; even the most established are still only 4-5 years old.

You can probably count the real leaders in this space in the tens, not the hundreds. So put them all together in one place and it’s little wonder that just a little bit of back-slapping and self-congratulation will ensue. We’re all keen to talk about how effectively we’re working with start-ups and how brilliant it’s been. And we're all just a little bit smug, because it's new and it's different and it's ours.

But it is brilliant – there’s no doubt about it. It’s a great model, and it can bring huge benefit all round, in ways that I’m not even going to explore now as I have bored at length on the subject in the past.

But it strikes me that this introspective view is distracting us from a wider point. We can’t see the business benefit wood for the start-up collaboration trees. If you see what I mean.

Decoded, I think we’re making open innovation too much of a thing. It isn’t a thing. It’s a means to an end. We shouldn’t want to work with start-ups because working with start-ups is inherently better than doing things in any other way. It’s one of many ways that we can achieve our commercial, operational or societal goals. It just so happens that it often is better when it comes to how we embrace new technology and take advantage of it to support our ambitions.

open innovationThat is a product of the times we live in. When it comes to developing and adopting creative applications of tech, the pace of change that we’re currently seeing naturally favours smaller and more agile players. And that's the reason to partner with them. Their leading capabilities in new digital technologies. Not just because they're called start-ups and we're called corporates and we 'need each other'.

I think all this really matters, because it totally shapes the conversation that we have with non-adopters of start-up collaboration. We’re spending too long pushing it as a concept – as a thing – and not enough time pushing it as what it is: good business practice.

For me, that's what it comes down to. Good business. All round. Start-ups are good partners for corporates. Corporates are good partners for start-ups. Start-ups offer good (tech) solutions. They offer good (new) ways of thinking and working. You’re not doing a bit of start-up collaboration for the sake of it. What you're doing is addressing your challenges and opportunities in the best way possible.

We – as the ‘leaders’ in this space – are not communicating the benefits and the whyeffectively because we’re so wrapped up in the notional benefits of an exciting new model. But there is a why. It’s because so often it gets us to our goals faster and cheaper than any other method.

We must shift the conversation. Innovation – especially collaborative innovation – is a tool to help businesses achieve what they’re already trying to do better, faster or more cost-effectively. It’s not some task to tick off the list. Collaborative innovation is not even a thing. It’s good business, and we should all be open to it.

Ollie’s role at McCann Enterprise incorporates brand strategy, creative services and, through HENRi@Nestlé, innovation consultancy. In partnership with the HENRi team, headed up by Gerardo Mazzeo (who we’ve previously interviewed), and his agency colleagues, Ollie manages all aspects of the programme – from internal engagement & project sourcing to partner scouting & matchmaking, application co-creation, pitches & reviews and partner selection. He spends much of his time on the road, taking HENRi to Nestlé brands & businesses in multiple markets, as well as presenting the opportunity to potential partners at key industry events. Article original published via LinkedIn.

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Published on: 22nd March 2018

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