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Successful Open Innovation Strategies and Leadership Engagement

Enthusiastic and engaged senior leaders can play a vital role in enabling a successful open innovation strategy. This is one of the key enablers for open innovation identified in APQC’s recent Best-Practices Report Open Innovation: Enhancing Idea Generation Through Collaboration. Nearly all of the best-practice organizations featured in the report have senior managers that take an active sponsorship role for the open innovation initiative. This support goes beyond just speaking about the importance of open innovation to actively being part of the process.

These findings are in line with other research on the implementation of strategic projects. In Why good strategies fail: Lessons for the C-suite, a recent report sponsored by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the Economist Intelligence Unit examines the essential role that senior leadership plays in strategy execution. Results from a survey conducted as part of the study reveal that 88 percent of respondents believe that executing strategic projects will be essential or very important for their companies’ competitiveness over the next three years. However, more than half of respondents indicated that their organizations struggle to take strategies to the next level through day-to-day implementation.

The PMI/Economist Intelligence Unit report also found that senior leadership can help further strategy implementation by focusing on key initiatives that are essential to the business. The respondents to the survey indicate that the efforts of senior leadership are most valuable when they include general oversight of strategy implementation, leadership of strategic initiatives, and communication.

The best-practice organizations in APQC’s study have found ways to engage their executives in their open innovation initiatives. For example, the CEO of Corning Incorporated sits on the organization’s growth and execution council, to which program managers present open innovation projects. Having the exposure to and input from executive leadership helps provide direction for scientists in the organization. Executives at the most senior level of Cisco Systems evaluate company-wide innovation, and it is customary for senior leaders to promote new ideation challenges and send out broad communications to drive employee engagement in innovation.

The best-practice organizations studied by APQC use executive involvement to drive the use of open innovation, which has enabled these companies to get to market faster and deliver greater value to their customers. Does your organization have senior leadership involvement in strategic projects? If your company has an open innovation initiative, what role do senior executives play in its execution?

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