Tuesday, May 4, 2010

From the ‘Beyond Open…’ Summit at FEI

Robert Kirschbaum from DSM gave an excellent talk really setting the scene for the ‘Beyond Open’ summit on the first day of FEI.

Like many large corporations DSM has embraced the concept of Open Innovation and recognises that ideas can come from anywhere… in DSM’s case 99.999996% of the world is outside of DSM! As Robert put it – in a closed model you act as if ‘our lab is our world’, whereas in an open model you recognise that ‘the world is our lab’ – and which situation would you rather be in?

DSM have been doing pretty well on the Open Innovation front and their CEO now says that OI is no longer a competitive advantage, it has become a competitive necessity. They’ve got partnerships, ventures, incubators… and even an open campus in the Netherlands where 80 different companies have come to join them.

Throughout the day we heard from speakers from Unilever, General Mills, P&G, SealedAir, Hallmark….an interesting theme that was echoed throughout the rest of the day was the combining of the themes of sustainability and Open Innovation. Many of the large companies are acknowledging that there are many global challenges and that a joint approach is needed to tackle them.

There are the overall global sustainability challenges and also their own company’s environmental impact. For example Unilever are aiming to grow €40B to €80B in 10 years without increasing environmental impact!

An interesting comment by Stefan Lindegaard was that the US are further ahead with implementing OI and sharing best practice for OI than Europe. I’d definitely disagree with this from my experiences, but from discussions at coffee afterwards it’s clear that whilst there are OI communities on both sides of the Atlantic they don’t really mix that much -and that more could be learned by sharing across ‘the pond.

The challenges of implementing Open Innovation were discussed throughout the day with the companies sharing their experiences. Across the board the importance of senior support, OI champions, having a common language, organising for OI, and having tools to help people work in an OI manner….were all clear.

Despite these similarities and similar issues, as I’ve previously commented it is fascinating that each company develops and implements their own unique approach to OI, depending on the type of business, typical time to market (FMCG vs high-tech), and corporate culture.

Ruth Thomson works on Authentication Systems and Consumer Products at Cambridge Consultants.

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