We deal with attraction every day of our lives, sometimes with life-changing consequences, for example in our choice of life partner. Many factors are involved – looks, intelligence, humour, wealth, or if you’re really lucky, an extraordinary combination of all four. Attraction is important in business too, but how often do you step back and consider what makes you attractive?
If you are active in Open Innovation (OI), potential partners will take a view on how attractive you are compared to other competing options. The more you do to enhance your good points and to smooth over the rough edges, the more likely you will be to strike a deal with a strong innovation partner. Most companies have choices; you want them to put you first.
We can break down the components of attraction into “basic facts” and “soft criteria”. The basic facts are straightforward, for example, your annual sales, brands, product categories, number of countries with operations etc. The soft criteria are much more difficult to define but are still very important to your ability to attract and retain OI partners.
For example, is your culture conducive to OI? Are you “closed” and secretive, with an approach to partnerships that is dominated by risk avoidance and suspicion; or is partnership very much a part of your business as usual? Are you bureaucratic or agile?
What about your policies and processes? For example, an opening approach to OI that demands you own all the IP isn’t the best start. Equally if you have a policy that all products are manufactured in-house and your partner doesn’t get a look in, you’re closing off options too early and being less attractive as a result. Do you demand that your partner follows your new product development process? It might make it easier for you to understand, but could be a nightmare for them.
What about your organization? Is it clear who has responsibility for progressing various aspects of OI projects, for example doing the deal, taking a technical view, project management? Do you have one “go to” person for your partner if they’re ever in doubt?
What is your elevator pitch on partnership? You should have a clear, consistent and compelling answer to the question “why should anybody want to work with you on OI?” By all means keep the basic facts prominent, but don’t forget a reason that covers the soft criteria.
Everybody, individual or company, has a reputation. Word gets round. You should consciously consider what improvements in the soft criteria, or presentation of the basic facts, will enhance your reputation as an OI partner.
It’s like getting ready before you go out. You will hopefully take at least one look in the mirror, just to make sure. Don’t forget to do it before you go out on an OI mission.