PA Consulting: Driving Open Innovation Through A Culture of Collaboration

Open Innovation delivers most for organisations when they succeed in developing a culture of collaboration. Truly collaborative relationships with external partners allow organisations to increase their rate of innovation, differentiate themselves in the marketplace and achieve cost and efficiency savings.  

PA Consulting - Culture of collaboration

However, employees often resist the introduction of open innovation, seeing it as a threat to their roles and to traditional models of research and development.  As a result, relationships with external partners become transactional and both organisations fail to reap the true value that can be delivered.

Following the guidelines set out below will ensure you are able to build trusting relationships and maximise the value of your external partnerships:


Facilitate open communication

Successful open innovation depends on effective communication and knowledge-sharing.  Internal systems should allow teams to share information about partners and build networks. Communication with external partners must be equally open.  A collaborative and trusting relationship with a partner should be porous, with information flowing freely between organisational boundaries.


Create inspirational leaders

Top team buy-in is essential if the organisation is to embrace a more collaborative culture, and leaders must set a clear strategy for open innovation and bring to life the behaviours required to support collaboration. However, influence should not just sit with senior leaders – local managers must feel empowered to build new partnerships and encourage their teams to do so.


Empower employees and build internal capability

Open innovation repositions traditional roles - valuing solution finders rather than problem solvers.  This will take time and be challenging for some.  As well as asking employees to work differently, you must also empower them by providing training and development opportunities to build new skills. Updating role profiles and performance objectives to reflect revised accountabilities will also help employees understand their new role and position themselves in the collaborative culture.


Check your alignment

While authentic culture takes time to build, it can be undermined by a single unaligned process.  Organisations must look beyond the key open innovation users to ensure that related functions including Procurement and Legal have adapted processes to support the collaborative culture. The aim is for open innovation to become a personal priority for all employees – alignment of the organisation to the Open Innovation strategy will ensure this is the case.


Make the change stick

Finally, organisations must take action to ensure that the collaborative culture ‘sticks’ and that employees do not return to old ways of working.  They must embed values that support Open Innovation; set ambitious open innovation targets; measure leaders and managers on collaborative behaviours and outcomes; and drive through change via reward and performance management mechanisms.

Open innovation has the potential to provide real competitive advantage for organisations wishing to differentiate themselves and achieve growth in a tough economic climate.  While establishing the conditions that will allow open innovation to flourish can be difficult, PA’s approach will ensure your organisation is better placed to benefit from truly collaborative working.