Open Innovation in Silicon Valley: Insights from Session with Big Companies


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Together with Silicon Valley Bank, I just held an interesting session with a group of senior people from corporate venture units and R&D teams from multinational companies with labs in Silicon Valley.

I shared my thoughts and perspectives through this presentation and we also got into some good discussions. In this blog post, I would like to highlight some of the insights and lessons I took away from the session.

You need to work in parallel tracks:

It is always a big question to which extent a company should open up their innovation efforts. This is a question of resources available (prioritization) as well as making some strategic choices.

In this situation, I had a good argument with a person believing that they should not really open up and focus on maintaining and improving their relationships with top VC firms in Silicon Valley.

This makes sense as you really need to focus your efforts. There are lots of opportunities for opening up and soliciting external input to your innovation process. If you open up too much and in the wrong ways (i.e. idea portals with no real direction), you will be overwhelmed by the amount of more or less useless ideas. This will drain your open innovation team, which is already stressed to the max.

However, you also need to be careful not to fall into the trap that an elite group of venture capitalists and their startups will bring you what you need. This might have worked for a long time and it will still work well for a while, but things are changing and we no longer really know where the next great ideas will come from.

Big companies should have the resources needed to work in parallel tracks with closed as well as open approaches to open innovation.

Making it work behind the scenes really matters:

I talked about the importance of being viewed as the preferred partner of choice for innovation within an industry or ecosystem. I was glad to hear that several of the participants seemed to agree that if you have this position you get better opportunities.

They were also good at pointing out that it is important to be able to deliver in the sense that you have the internal setup and capabilities that allow you to turn relationships into real business. A key element for open innovation success happens behind the scenes although we all know how difficult it can be to achieve this level of open innovation maturity.

Communication is not yet accepted as a key skill:

Even though, I praise the importance of the “behind the scenes” work above, I found it a bit disturbing that the group was not really so hooked on the idea of building the perception that their companies are open innovation leaders.

The companies assembled were all well known, but yet, I don’t view any of them as open innovation leaders even though most of them actually have interesting programs in place that could give them the foundation you need before you start building the perception of being an open innovation leader.

It seems as if them prefer to keep a low profile with their efforts rather than opening up and see what happens. Maybe they are not yet confident enough in their open innovation capabilities and thus they hold back. This is fair enough, but they need to realize that there is a land grab game going right now. Not all of the big companies will be perceived as the preferred partners of choice within their industries. Many will lose this battle.

I hope they will soon start to see the value in being great communicators since they really need to start promoting their corporate innovation capabilities in order to get the first look at the best innovation opportunities in the coming years.

You can read more in this post: Great Innovators Are Great Communicators

We need more banks like Silicon Valley Bank:

Yes, I am a big fan of Silicon Valley Bank and their approach in working with startups and corporate venture teams. They not only help them with the banking issues; they also open up their huge network and make the kind of connections that help bring out better innovation faster. Their approach can be summed up in this statement from their website- You can’t do it alone! – which fits nicely into the concept of open innovation.

It would be great to see Silicon Valley Bank in Copenhagen – and many other locations!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stefan Lindegaard
Stefan is an author, speaker, facilitator and consultant focusing on open innovation, social media tools and intrapreneurship.


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