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Is Your Company Ready for Open Innovation?

Many industrial companies are trying to profit from open innovation, which involves actively collaborating with external partners throughout the innovation process. Many companies now acquire technology from external sources in order to strengthen and speed up their internal innovation processes–an approach the authors call inbound open innovation. Companies also increasingly transfer some of their own proprietary technology to other companies by means such as licensing–an approach known as outbound open innovation.
The researchers studied the role of employee attitudes in open innovation through a large-scale benchmarking study of German industrial companies. The authors conclude that employee attitudes that favor internal innovation often impede the successful implementation of open innovation strategies. But the researchers found that a group of companies that pursue both inbound and outbound open innovation achieved the highest average return on sales. However, the companies that pursued traditional closed innovation strategies had a higher average return on sales than the group of companies that transfer their own technology to others but don’t acquire much technology from external sources. These findings, the authors note, suggest that a focus only on outbound innovation may be dangerous, as a company risks transferring its “crown jewels.”
The authors note that the results of their study underscore the need to change employee attitudes if managers aim to implement open innovation strategies; managers, they note, need to communicate their open innovation strategies to employees, have executive champions for them and devise suitable incentives and organizational structures to encourage open innovation.

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