It is interesting to see how open innovation has brought a different kind of competition to market leading companies. It is the fight for innovation partners and the strongest innovation ecosystems.
In most industries, you have 2-4 market leaders and lots of smaller players. The big market leaders will fight each other hard to build their innovation ecosystems in which the smaller companies are key elements for success for the big companies.
It is my experience that it takes 3-4 years to build strong capabilities for innovating with external partners and this is when things go well. This is not always the case. It is not difficult to set-up online portals or idea harvesting systems. The real challenge is to setup the systems and structures that allow an organization to process the external input.
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Once this foundation is in place, an important, yet over-looked, battlefield is the promotion of corporate innovation capabilities. It used to be that marketing, promotion and branding was only for innovation outcomes. This is changing as corporate innovation units need to make themselves look good towards the potential innovation partners in their industries.
Right now, Statoil and Shell are in such a battle. I am not sure how aware they are about this and there are definitely also other market leaders in play, but Statoil and Shell drew my attention due to two fairly recent initiatives.
Statoil Innovation is a fairly standard challenge-driven portal in which Statoil reaches out to external contributors. It looks nice and thus it serves the need to look good towards potential innovation partners.
Shell launched a marketing campaign, Inside Energy, which seemed to be aimed at consumers as well as business partners. Their GameChanger program for external innovation contribution is fairly visible here. I was quite impressed by their heavy presence on Twitter and I like their iPad app.
I am not sure that Shell or Statoil deliberately try to look good towards innovation partners with these specific efforts, but I am certain they get a positive impact for this purpose.
Perhaps this can help inspire corporate innovation units to develop strategies for promoting their innovation capabilities. A deliberate approach on this can become a key differentiator in attracting external innovation partners and I look forward to see such units fight each other on this front.