Open and collaborative approaches to innovation are on the rise and books, articles and conferences are being built around helping us all find new ideas and new partners for collaborative innovation.
Much of this effort has been focused on large companies' needs and their efforts to look beyond their four walls for ideas and technologies. Henry Chesbrough may have started this wave with his book Open Innovation, but it's being promoted and actively supported by many others.
One problem I see with many of the current approaches espoused by experts and companies alike is this: they are too often "large-company centric". In other words, it's all about established and often large companies scouting for new technologies among the web portals and technology listing services. Or large companies issuing requests for proposals from technologists and inventors to submit their best thinking for consideration. I do think this is all great -- and it helps to make connections that otherwise might never happen. But it's not enough.
These same large companies need to look in the mirror and ask themselves: "Are we a good collaboration partner?" I've been on both sides of this equation having been a general manager and VP in a large companies and also having been an entrepreneur and partner to technology owners. And I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly.
Why is it important to be a good collaboration partner? Simply because in the long run, the best partners will attract the best opportunities. You simply can't find all of these opportunities through scouting. You need to make your needs and strategies somewhat public to attract entrepreneurial partners. And the bad partners develop a reputation quickly. I know some of them and you may too. Hopefully, it's not your company.
I'll propose some questions to ask yourself about being a good collaboration partner in the next post.