New APQC Report Identifies Best Practices for Open Innovation

Research features best-practice insights and case studies from Amway, British Telecom, Cisco Systems, Inc., Corning Incorporated, and General Mills

(Houston, Texas - August 15, 2013) - APQC, the nonprofit leader in benchmarking and best practices research, has released a new report—Open Innovation: Enhancing Idea Generation Through Collaboration—that outlines what several leading organizations are doing to more effectively tap multiple sources of innovation and expand their idea-generating capacity.  The study, which was conducted in partnership with Project Management Institute (PMI), identified 11 open innovation best practices across four areas—strategies, roles, processes, and measurement/improvement.

In the study, APQC and PMI named five global best-practice organizations with multiple years of experience implementing open innovation practices—Amway, British Telecom (BT), Cisco Systems, Inc., Corning Incorporated, and General Mills.

The top three best practices include:

Establishing a central and dedicated group to drive open innovation.

Seventy-five percent of the best-practice organizations in APQC’s study have a central group of staff members specifically dedicated to open innovation, which is 35 percent higher than other study participants. Despite the size of the best-practice organizations (median annual revenue of $17 billion), their open innovation groups are kept small.  Two-thirds have 25 or fewer employees in their open innovation groups, and one-third have 26 to 50 employees.  Small, dedicated open innovation groups establish clear ownership of the process and create an ability to execute an agile innovation strategy.

Partnering broadly across a variety of external and internal organizations.

While the best-practice organizations collaborate with a wide variety of internal and external groups for innovation, the backbone of such collaboration is the openness to suggestions from nontraditional, external sources.  This willingness to look outside the enterprise for new ideas—such as to government agencies and entrepreneurs and even to competitors—applied to all best-practice organizations, but only to 60 percent of other study participants.

Inviting participation in open innovation via experiences.

Specifically, best-practice organizations offer showcases to give customers and other partners first-hand experience with new and potential products and services. 

The eight additional best practices are:

  1. Focus on targeted, needs-based open innovation.
  2. Position your organization to build and manage key relationships.
  3. Allow open innovation maturity to drive the approach to intellectual property ownership.
  4. Seek open innovation team members with specialized skills and backgrounds.
  5. Integrate and align the open innovation process with other relevant processes to ensure key entities are involved at critical points.
  6. Embrace broad and specific scouting for new ideas.
  7. Seek compelling measures for open innovation.
  8. Use change management to drive commitment to open innovation.

Additional subject matter expertise for the study was provided by Matthew Heim of inno360 and Christopher W. Miller of Innovation Focus.

“In this research, we saw that open innovation yields access to connections and organizations often not previously considered,” said Marisa Brown, director, Research Services, APQC.  “Open innovation helps organizations leverage technologies, processes, and cost structures from their partners. We are excited to share these best practices and insights through this report.”

According to Stephen Townsend, director, Global Alliances & Networks, PMI, “The need for innovation is well-documented.  According to our research at PMI, organizations need to be much faster at responding to strategic opportunities and have shorter decision or production review cycles. However, the key to truly successful innovation lies in implementation. Successful organizations maintain a closer link between strategy and implementation, enabling innovative companies to translate their findings into results.”

“Project Management Institute is dedicated to helping organizations improve their execution performance so they are better able to leverage their innovation activities to drive business results,” said Townsend. “As a partner with APQC on this important study, we have an excellent opportunity to provide useful insights, approaches, and knowledge for practitioners seeking to change the world through innovation.”

Detailed descriptions of the 11 best practices, supported by case studies from the best-practice organizations, may be found at Open Innovation: Enhancing Idea Generation Through Collaboration - Report Overview.

About APQC

APQC is a member-based nonprofit and one of the world’s leading proponents of knowledge management, benchmarking, and best practices business research. Working with more than 750 organizations worldwide in all industries, APQC provides organizations with the information they need to work smarter, faster, and with confidence. Visit, call +1.713.681.4020 or follow @APQC and learn how to Make Best Practices Your PracticesSM.

About Project Management Institute
PMI ( is the world’s largest not-for-profit membership association for the project management profession. Our professional resources and research empower more than 700,000 members, credential holders and volunteers in nearly every country in the world to enhance their careers, improve their organizations’ success and further mature the profession.

PMI’s worldwide advocacy for project management is reinforced by our globally recognized standards and certification program, extensive academic and market research programs, chapters and communities of practice, and professional development opportunities.

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