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The football school of open innovation

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The football school of open innovation

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I have written previously about the valuable role open innovation can play in finding and managing the talent you have, both within your organisation and of course outside it as well.

A new paper published via Vlerick Business School goes as far as to draw comparisons between the open innovation approach to talent management and that of leading football clubs.

The paper looks in particular at three main aspects of open innovation from a talent perspective.


We touched on the kind of factors that encourage people to participate in open innovation before on this blog, but the paper found a few interesting things to help with recruiting the right talent:

  1. Informal recruitment works – attracting participants through formal channels, such as job adverts, was found to be ineffective.
  2. Employee diversity matters – but not in the ethnic or gender sense, but in a talent and knowledge sense.  This is something I’ve touched on previously, and the work of Scott Page is very good on this topic.

Training and development

Suffice to say, it’s not always easy to find the right kind of people for successful open innovation, so the paper touches on the various methods of training and development that can help develop those skills.  So training was offered on things such as building a network and working with external stakeholders.

Appraisals and assessments

The feedback system is fundamental to any social business success, as it’s imperative that people get feedback on whether their behaviours are the kind you’re hoping to encourage.  The paper reinforces many of the systemic things I’ve spoken about before on this blog in that companies need to ensure that what happens in their appraisals reinforces the values and behaviours they wish employees to exhibit.  So performances are judged on collaborative behaviours as much as they are on individual achievements.

The researcher concludes by saying, “Open innovation is a human activity. People management and the business culture are therefore crucial. However, this is often where the difficulty lies: employees are not encouraged sufficiently to innovate outside the bounds of their company or business unit.

“As an organisation, you almost need to organise your human resources policy like some of the top football clubs, which loan players to another club, let them gain two years’ experience and then take them back.

“When it comes to promoting open innovation, people management practices are just the start; the whole organisation must be infused with its value.”

As a paper, it doesn’t provide anything revolutionary, but nonetheless it does reinforce the importance of looking at open innovation in a wider context, and ensuring that this isn’t something practiced in an isolated pocket of the organisation, but something that is represented in the cultural fabric.

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