Imagine a company that is taking a different approach on innovation. They want to be more pro-active and they want to work with external partners. So they identify 10 companies they have not yet worked with, they research on these companies and then they get ready to approach these companies in order to present and discuss potential ways of making innovation happen together.
This is a real case and the next question is important: Where should the first contact take place? One option is with the people on the ground as such a bottom-up approach gives you better access to the people who actually do the work. Another option is a top-down approach where you go as high as you can.
I think most will agree that the latter is the best approach. Let me share a few reason for this.
Getting in touch with lower-ranked employees can get you into the heart of the potential partner company. However, these people might lack the strategic insights needed to evaluate the value in this opportunity and they lack the decision-making authority needed to decide whether to engage and if so what kind of resources to commit. This can slow things down in a situation where a desired outcome is often speed.
You should also have in mind that open innovation is a paradigm shift for most companies and this shift cannot take place without top-level support and commitment. When you approach other companies you need to show some kind of high-level commitment and you should expect nothing less from your potential partner. Be alert if this match does not happen.
What is your take on this?
Stefan Lindegaard is a speaker, network facilitator and strategic advisor who focus on the topics of open innovation, intrapreneurship and how to identify and develop the people who drive innovation.