Open for Ideas Means Open for Business and Fosters Social Innovation

Ok, so it’s an older article but few have yet to seriously adopt open collaboration and innovation. In 2006 Huston and Sakkab wrote about Procter and Gamble’s (P&G’s) Connect & Develop (Harvard Business Review, page 58-66, March 2006). In contrast to the typical pharmaceutical proprietary model of in house R&D, P&G piloted a novel concept called Connect & Develop which presented R&D challenges to outside entrepreneurs and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) who then develop novel solutions to the P&G’s innovation challenges.

“The model works. Today, more than 35% of our new products in market have elements that originated from outside P&G, up from about 15% in 2000.” These new ideas came from a variety of sources such as proprietary networks but also from open networks such as Nine Sigma, InnoCentive (founded by Ely Lilly), YourEncore (kind of like a technological Handy Man Connection) and (an online marketplace for intellectual property exchange).

Lessons Learned for KM:
– “Never assume that ‘ready to go’ ideas found outside are truly ready to go. There will always be development work to do” – work with your partners to adapt research to new learning and policy environments
– “Don’t underestimate the internal resources required. You’ll need a full-time, senior executive to run any connect-and-develop initiative” – while knowledge brokers support social innovation by connecting research to practice you need support and buy in from senior management
– “Never launch without a mandate from the CEO. Connect and develop cannot succeed if it’s cordoned off in R&D. It must be a top-down, companywide strategy” – knowledge mobilization must be an institutional priority not just a value permeating a handful of community-university projects.

ResearchImpact defines social innovation as the creation or application of research and knowledge to develop sustainable solutions to social, environmental and cultural challenges. Social Innovation results in more efficient and effective human services, more responsive public policies and a greater cultural understanding. As P&G learned to open its doors to outside innovation so universities, community organizations, government agencies, granting councils and Foundations must embrace a culture of openness and collaboration in order to realize the benefits of social innovation. Working through knowledge brokers who foster a culture of openness and collaboration, knowledge mobilization is the means to social innovation.

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