Featured Research: Is your company ready to benefit from an open innovation processes?

Today I want to continue our little series on new papers dealing with one (or many) aspects of mass customization, open innovation and innovation management. In an act of shameless self promotion, we picked this short management article on some of the key requirements that can decide whether or not a company is ready to benefit open innovation.

EycoverIncreasing innovative capacity: is your company ready to benefit from open innovation processes?

By Philipp Wagner and Frank Piller (RWTH Aachen)

Published in: Ernst & Young Performance Journal, Volume 4, Issue 2
Download full article here at Ernst & Young (very nice layout 🙂

A company’s ability to innovate is key to its success. The strategic and systematic opening up of internal innovation processes to include external knowledge – in other words, open innovation – can result in significant competitive advantages.

Core dimensionsThere is now a whole range of open innovation methods that complement traditional innovation management methods. While there is already considerable evidence of the potential that open innovation offers, many companies still have a comparatively closed innovation process, or are still in the process of transitioning to a more open approach.

In order to exploit the potential of open innovation, the corresponding methods must be tightly integrated into the Innovation management toolbox. Moreover, open innovation calls for a shift in strategic orientation, the organization and companies’ culture. These requirements are not dissimilar to those of traditional innovation management. Open innovation also needs to be planned, managed, monitored and formalized.

In this paper, we have presented a tool that enables companies to assess their readiness for open innovation as a basis for defining targeted internal measures aimed at promoting the benefits of open innovation.

How open the innovation process is depends less on the specific industry involved than on the decision of the management of the company in question. Companies that have been successful in implementing open innovation have reported that creating an open innovation culture is a powerful motivating factor, and that internal cultural barriers and a lack of motivation are the greatest obstacles

In our experience, dealing with external knowledge and external players poses another major challenges for many companies. In practice, the application of open innovation tools does not always lead to the desired results, and the potential theoretically possible is not fully exploited. A company’s readiness to assimilate external information is a key challenge in this regard.

In this paper, my fellow colleague at RWTH Aachen, Philipp Wagner and myself present an audit aimed at helping companies assess their readiness for open innovation and, where necessary, optimize structures and processes.


The articles comments on the factors that determine a company’s actual situation with regard to specific criteria and, by comparing this to a target situation, endeavors to determine the company’s readiness to utilize open innovation successfully and derive suggestions for action from these findings.

==> Download the full article here as a PDF

And a disclaimer: In the present state, our open innovation audit still is a really customized and lengthy consulting project that we are happy to offer to interested companies. But it IT IS NOT A QUICK SCALE that you just can fillout online and then get your readiness score.  We are working on this, too, but at the present stage, we were not satisfied with the results of such a self assessment.

However, such a self assessment is available in form of the Open Innovation Assessment by NineSigma. Have a look there. This is a nice illustration and complementation to our paper.

About the Author:

Frank T. Piller is a Co-Director of the MIT Smart Customization Group at the MIT Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, and a chair professor of management at the Technology & Innovation Management Group of RWTH Aachen University, Germany, one of Europe’s leading institutes of technology. Before entering his recent position in Aachen, he worked at the MIT Sloan School of Management (2004-2007) and has been an associate professor of management at TUM Business School, Technische Universitaet Muenchen. Frequently quoted in The New York Times, The Economist, and Business Week, amongst others, Frank is regarded as one of the leading experts on strategies for customer-centric value creation, like mass customization, personalization, and innovation co-creation. His recent analysis of the crowdsourcing business model “Threadless” (co-authored with Susumu Ogawa), an innovative crowdsourcing business model in the fashion industry, has been elected as one of the Top-20 articles in MIT Sloan Management Review.