Best Practice: Identify and Prioritize your Innovation Sources

This is the first in a series of eight posts on keys for building a scalable system for delivering external innovation to the enterprise (what we call “Networked Innovation”). Additional posts will be published weekly.

The pace of innovation has never been faster, and identifying the next technology or process innovation in the high-velocity, global entrepreneurial landscape has become more and more challenging. Hoping for serendipity to strike at the next industry conference doesn’t scale.

Leading enterprises are developing relationships with venture firms, angel groups, accelerators, universities and other intermediaries to gain systematic access to emerging innovation in sectors that are strategic to them. Turning these relationships into a scalable innovation supply chain is a different matter.

Success requires that you build, manage and measure these relationships with the same rigor that you would any other business process. And determine which relationships are delivering the highest quality deal flow so that you can prioritize your time and budget.

Do you buy the argument that we’re in the midst of a fundamental change in enterprise innovation from a primarily internal process to a hybrid approach incorporating external innovation? If so, then the organizations that first figure out how to best manage and optimize their external innovation sources have an opportunity to gain unique market intelligence and a window of competitive advantage.

Key #1 for Networked Innovation is to think like a detective and invest in good sources, using these best practices:

Challenge: Identifying innovation sources that meet your specific strategic needs

Best Practice: Create strategic supply-building activities that tap into global innovation networks, including accelerators, universities, venture capital firms, events and labs. The more qualified your deal flow, the greater the chances of discovering the right solution for your needs.

Challenge: Coordinating innovation sourcing and sensing across business functions and geographies

Best Practice: Prioritize your innovation sources based on the quality of innovation provided and map them to internal needs. Knowing the sources with the best record of innovation can decrease your response time to new requests.

Challenge: Increasing the velocity of identifying and connecting to external innovation when internal needs are identified

Best Practice: Track your sources, so that (1) you know where to seek out the next key innovation and compress your time to fulfillment for internal needs, and (2) you’re seeing key innovation earlier than your competition and are better positioned to pursue it.

Developing strong sources of innovation requires a focused effort, but these relationships provide the foundation for your Networked Innovation strategy. If you have other challenges or best practices in innovation sourcing, please comment below.

In our next post, we’ll explore the challenges of capturing, updating and managing your strategic innovation data.