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The management demands of open innovation

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The management demands of open innovation

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Successful collaboration and open innovation requires a shift in how management go about their work.  A Swedish study published recently explores just what this means for managers looking to tap into expertise from external sources.

“Many studies have been conducted from a firm-centric perspective, but as far as I know there is no previous research where open innovation collaboration has been studied for so long. Looking at the collaboration itself opens up paths for new understanding, and it’s becoming clear that it requires another leadership than what we often think of in traditional organisations,” researcher Anna Ystrom says.

The report looks especially at how companies can deal with the inherent dichotomy that so often surrounds innovation.  I’ve written previously about how innovators are often not particularly popular in their organisations, as their ideas inherently represent a large degree of uncertainty.  Ystrom highlights that this uncertainty isn’t going away, so the best approach is simply to try and manage it as well as possible.  Her report identifies five ways she believes can assist managers in doing this.

“I have identified five examples of managerial practices. In other contexts these practices tend to be taken for granted or not to be seen as especially important, but they are in an open innovation environment. It’s an issue of identity-building, nurturing the spirit of collaboration, constantly working on the relationships with the various organisations, understanding and making use of political manoeuvres and creating meaning for yourself and others in the environment you find yourself in,” she explains.

With innovation increasingly important, the successful management of the process, all the way from ideation to implementation, will be an increasingly valuable skill for managers to obtain.

“Even if the results are primarily aimed at managers, I also think that other participants can get new insight into the challenges and opportunities that arise, and into why it is important to reflect on the manager that is required. It could otherwise lead to major frustration among everyone involved when you can’t really get ahead,” she states.

To further explore this issue, Ystrom has teamed up with colleague Susanne Ollila to create a research group to further understand the issue.  Called Managing In-Between, it already has a couple of studies in the pipeline, with these hopefully feeding into new projects.

With collaborations between organisations only likely to increase as our economies become more intertwined in their bid to tackle increasingly complex challenges, successful management of these relationships will become critical.  Research such as this therefore will form a strong part of our better understanding of the area.

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