WRG Open Innovation Conference

I recently attended the WRG Open Innovation Conference in Chicago.  As one of the only lawyers in the room, it was a unique insight into what the innovation leaders of global companies are thinking and how they are attacking the many challenges they face in innovating in an open global environment.  A few of my key take-aways were that while most companies have created formal and structured programs with clear metrics to achieve success and are achieving success, they are all still struggling with a few basic challenges.

Training & Education on Entrepreneurship.  Central to the success of any open innovation program is training and educating the people within the company who work in open innovation to be entrepreneurial.  Open innovation teams must be trained to understand how to think outside the box, be willing to take risks and effectively convey their passion and enthusiasm for those new or crazy ideas to the leadership of the company.  As an entrepreneur myself, I wonder if someone inside a large company with a steady paycheck could ever truly understand what it is to be an entrepreneur.  As an entrepreneur, you put everything at risk, you ask others to join you in the venture with an idea, a little bit of cash and a lot of passion and hard work.  In the beginning you stay up all night hoping you can just make payroll.  You find that most people will tell you you’re crazy and you have to be strong enough to keep going until you find a little success and then build on it.  Clearly, a certain innate risk taking mindset is required to be an entrepreneur, but teaching and sharing how to handle the fear and channel your passion with others as an entrepreneur is central to the success of creating leaders in open innovation.

Process & Knowledge Sharing.  At the core of every successful open innovation program is some structured process to get new ideas into the company, developed, weeded out or nurtured via a joint venture, co-development, acquisition, license or other structure.  Sharing of knowledge within the company and externally is also central to this key part of the program.  Many companies have developed their own processes, while others have licensed software or other processes to provide these critical tools to their open innovation teams.

Culture, Leadership, Vision & Incentives.  Equally important to training those who work every day in open innovation and giving them the right process and knowledge sharing tools is that the leadership of the company sets out a vision, creates a culture and builds in the right incentives to support and embrace open innovation initiatives.  This means, just like entrepreneurs, there must be room for both successes and failures.  Failure is an integral part of any entrepreneurial success story.  Few get it right the first time.  As Albert Einstein said, “I think and think for months and years.  Ninety-nine times, the conclusion is false.  The hundredth time I am right.”

I look forward to attending future open innovation conferences, sharing ideas about entrepreneurship within these programs and how to create the right incentives to capitalize on the investment made in open innovation.  One thing is for sure, open innovation is not going away.  In a global economy with increasing demand for consumer attention, the need to innovate and create greater efficiencies will require collaboration internally and externally.


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