Why Top-Down is a Better Approach for Open Innovation

Why Top-Down is a Better Approach for Open InnovationImagine a company that is taking a different approach on innovation. They want to be more pro-active and they want to work with external partners. So they identify 10 companies they have not yet worked with, they research on these companies and then they get ready to approach these companies in order to present and discuss potential ways of making innovation happen together.

This is a real case and the next question is important: Where should the first contact take place? One option is with the people on the ground as such a bottom-up approach gives you better access to the people who actually do the work. Another option is a top-down approach where you go as high as you can.

I think most will agree that the latter is the best approach. Let me share a few reason for this.

Getting in touch with lower-ranked employees can get you into the heart of the potential partner company. However, these people might lack the strategic insights needed to evaluate the value in this opportunity and they lack the decision-making authority needed to decide whether to engage and if so what kind of resources to commit. This can slow things down in a situation where a desired outcome is often speed.

You should also have in mind that open innovation is a paradigm shift for most companies and this shift cannot take place without top-level support and commitment. When you approach other companies you need to show some kind of high-level commitment and you should expect nothing less from your potential partner. Be alert if this match does not happen.

What is your take on this?

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Stegan LindegaardStefan Lindegaard is a speaker, network facilitator and strategic advisor who focus on the topics of open innovation, intrapreneurship and how to identify and develop the people who drive innovation.

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No Comments

  1. Caspar van Rijnbach on May 8, 2010 at 1:02 pm


    Completely agree with you. Within the companies I have been working this also is true for innovation. Without top management support, it will be difficult to make things happen.

    And open innovation initiatives should be driven by strategy, which means that there should be direction on who to work with (ex.: universities, suppliers, clients or research institutes), in which part of the R&D&I vale chain the company should focus (Research, Development or Commercialization) and who should be strategic partners in the whole process. Without top managament strategic directives and support this is not very easy.

    Besides there is the IP issue. Without having clear what can be shared, employees will be hesitant to share.

    So, top management support also to my opinion is fundamental.

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