Monday, 2 September 2013

Open Innovation? You'd better start building a human and trustworthy organization first!

Numerous pages have been written on open innovation and wide attention has been received throughout the development of this new paradigm. 

Open innovation has become “the latest management buzzword” (Hagel and Brown, 2008), “A strategic business imperative for non-linear growth; the Holy Grail for executives today” (Soni, 2008) and “a mechanism to access sources of inspiration and innovation-and create new sources of value-from outside the organization” (Tuff and Jonash, 2009).

The main idea of the concept lies within the shift from a closed to an open paradigm creating a porous business model and permeable firm boundaries. Furthermore innovation becomes more democratized and open innovation is based on collaborative relationships-organizational alliances and partnerships.

However despite its vast acknowledgement, open innovation still remains a highly elusive notion especially towards its adoption, implementation and measurable performance. The reason is twofold; primarily it is the lack of understanding that open innovation will only thrive in organizational environments that respect employees and drive a true human approach and secondly that in order to manage open innovation you need to start by appreciating and building intraorganizational trust.

The managerial barriers of open innovation are related to organizational and cultural issues which share fragile and delicate functions towards the interaction with the external ecosystem and innovation governance. So it is about time to start engendering and enabling the human side of open innovation by cultivating the ultimate element of open innovation which is trust.

I believe that we must start by emanating the role of trust as a core element of open innovation and bring upfront the need for pure attention to the employees which are the drivers of open innovation within an organization. 

I perceive open innovation as a dynamic organizational mindset that encourages the exploration and exploitation of diverse knowledge inflows and outflows, leading to innovation continuity and incremental organizational change, through the establishment of trustworthy, culturally sensitive and sustainable relationships inside and outside the organizational boundaries. 
People are the drivers of true open innovation. Focusing upon the identification and development of their skills, competences and cognitive capabilities it highly time it became the primary starting point. 

But why trust? Trust is the conditio sine qua non of any kind of social, business oriented interaction and cooperation. It is a contextual phenomenon, an intangible quality and very fragile. Building trust across personal-organizational-structural tiers in an increasingly uncertain world. 

On the other hand open innovation is a highly complex phenomenon crystallizing many different interrelated disciplines and elements. Open innovation is meaningful only in human organizations where trust must be seen as a catalyst and enabler. Furthermore, it becomes apparent that open innovation requires discipline and substantial organizational changes. 

Open innovation needs to be cultivated within an organization embracing vision and willingness to creatively collaborate, co-create value, elevate its competitive advantage, differentiate, avoid the commodity trap and become more human. 

Open innovation as a trust embedded organizational mindset puts forward a non-linear, dynamic and interactive nature of the innovation process. All these make trust an inherent element of the open innovation’s DNA and the pioneer for change in the way it is managed within the organization via its drivers, the employees. 


Hagel, J., and Brown S., 2008. Creation Nets: Harnessing the Potential of Open Innovation. Journal of Service Science 1(2), pp.27-40

Soni, P., 2008. Open Innovation: A Strategic Imperative for Non-linear Growth. Management of Innovation and Technology, Proceedings of the 2008 IEEE ICMIT, pp.172-177

Tuff, G., and Jonash, B., 2009. “Open Innovation: No Longer an Option. Principles and Actions for Getting It Right. Monitor Company Group Limited Partnership, pp.1-11

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