In our Leadership+Innovation community on LinkedIn, Chris Thoen who is a R&D Director at Procter & Gamble, asked which elements are needed in order to create an open innovation culture. Our community had an interesting discussion and I want to share the key elements that came up.

– Willingness to accept that not all the smart people work for your company. We need to work with smart people inside and outside our company.

– Willingness to strive for balance between internal and external R&D. External R&D can create significant value; internal R&D is needed to claim some portion of that value.

– Willingness to give part of the control to others. We don’t have to originate the research to profit from it. We don’t need to control everything from the cradle to the grave.

– No need to always be first. Building a better business model is better than getting to market first.

– Dismiss NIH (Not Invented Here). If we make the best use of internal and external ideas, we will win. We don’t need to own everything ourselves and keep it under tight wraps. We should profit from others’ use of our innovation process, and we should buy others’ intellectual property (IP) whenever it advances our own business model.

– Open innovation requires people with the right interpersonal management skills to manage the relationships with customers and partners. We need people with agility and flexibility skills. The “soft” skills of emotional intelligence — fundamental social skills such as self-awareness, self-fulfilment, and empathy — are needed to complement traditional IQ skills.

– Willingness to reward effort and learning. Failure is a fact of life for companies that pursue innovation seriously, and a leader’s response to it has a huge effect on company culture and therefore on future projects. Innovation leaders know that failures represent opportunities to learn.

– As part of good leadership skills, a group or entity has to be willing to be a risk taker rather than being risk adversed while having a good dose of common sense with regards to balancing the risk level.

– Open innovation requires open communication. Work around the confidentiality and IPR issues in order to create an environment build on trust.

– Develop a job rotation program in order to help your employees build the knowledge and understanding of how an idea or technology becomes a profitable business. Consider engaging partners and customers in such a program.

Besides Chris and myself, the contributors for this list are Robert Falcone who is R&D Director at Nice Pak Industries, Benjamin Chaloner-Gill who works with New Business Development at Chevron and Rakesh Sharma who heads Strategy & Business Development at the Indian Sub Continent at Philips.

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