Open Innovation: Culture Change is Never Easy

Posted by Dwayne Spradlin on May 6, 2009 3:44:41 PM

On June 9th, Dwayne Spradlin will be speaking at the prestigious i2i - Incentive2Innovate conference at the United Nations in New York. The conference focuses on open innovation and incentivized competition, and Dwayne will be addressing the topic of integrating open innovation and incentives into an organization's culture.  As part of his participation in the conference, Dwayne was invited to submit a guest blog post addressing this subject.  Below is the text of that post.

"A Crisis is a Terrible Thing to Waste: Now is the Time to Implement an Open Innovation Culture"

Every day new proof points confirm that adopting an "open" innovation culture delivers better innovations, faster cycle times, and improved economics. Many forward-thinking organizations embraced "open" in past good economic times and have created sustainable competitive advantage for themselves. These organizations moved cultural and political mountains to make this happen and for them "open" innovation will pay enormous dividends in today's down economy.

But what about all the other organizations that must now think differently in order to survive? They continue to cling to dated ideas that they must invent, control, and own every aspect of their existence. They have erected legal, cultural, and political roadblocks to engaging the rest of the world in their businesses and are now paying the price. They desperately need "open" innovation, but are reacting to this economic crisis by "hunkering down" and will miss the opportunity to embrace change. Therein lies the challenge: they must learn to be "open" during a time when their business has the least will to think differently.

The reality is that organizations do not change until they are forced to do so. We are faced with unparalleled opportunity and need to rethink and reengineer the fundamentals of our businesses. Smart organizations will use this crisis as a catalyst to drive institutional change. "Open" innovation embodies the notion that in the new economy, marketplaces are emerging for ideas that will fundamentally challenge the conventional thinking in areas that include ideation, research, product development, collaboration, and even intellectual property. Businesses that act now will emerge stronger in more ways than one.

In this new world, organizations don't seek to limit the number of minds focused on a problem to a select few, instead they enlist thousands or millions with a passion to make a difference. Diversity of thought and access to vast networks of qualified minds becomes the valuable currency, replacing the closed monolithic approaches that define many of today's organizations. This "Open Innovation" reaches outside of the four walls and attracts everyone eager to participate in advancing the cause - solving the problem.

Imagine a time when FEMA or the Red Cross is able to tap peoples everywhere on demand for ideas and implementable solutions in times of emergency, Los Angeles seeks new approaches to reducing traffic congestion or a corporation undertaking to design and deliver to market better products designed by scientists, entrepreneurs, and even their existing customers - none of whom may work for them. Open innovation marketplaces will literally be the clearing houses for connecting myriads of needs to literally millions of creative, inventive, and "uniquely prepared" minds and organizations from all over the world.

At InnoCentive, we are committed to being at the forefront of this change. Our partners post Challenges in a wide range of areas including life sciences, chemistry, applied materials, business, engineering, mathematics, computer science, and food science. Through our pavilions, we focus on areas of global importance like clean technology, renewable energy, global health, and public policy. With a firmly held belief that incentives hold the key to harnessing and focusing the vast collective talent pools available worldwide, we will drive innovation everywhere there is the potential to make a difference.

To see the full program and list of speakers, please visit

Topics: Innovation Insights

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