Innovation Depends on Trust, Diversity and Knowledge Networks

Jan 18, 2013

trust1_2knowledge diversity facilitates all types of contributions to open innovation projects”

When we talk about interactions between companies and its exterior stakeholders, we can say that the knowledge or cultural diversity or even diversity with experiences is key to  producing new insights.

However this new diversity climate of interaction can obstruct and derail the success of open innovation. It is essential, therefore, to know how people, when placed in teams, can make substantial contributions of knowledge and how they can combine those contributions giving rise to new knowledge, new ideas and innovation.

But what are some of the problems people and businesses face in this knowledge exchange?

Small and medium-sized enterprises are well quipped inherently to facilitate these exchanges of knowledge and provides high levels of creativity as well. These informal networks are more  effective than the formal networks established by companies, and they have helped launch the frontiers of knowledge of SMEs to surprising levels. These networks are critical to small and medium-sized companies as a source to learn about business opportunities and about the potential for intervention outside its borders.

Though even after a few years since Henry Chesbrough coined the term “Open Innovation”, the leaders and managers of SMEs do not yet demonstrate behavior and practices typical of an exploratory attitude or of a networking of exploration of new territories and environments.

There is not a trend or a common desire widespread within companies to advance collaboration in the creation of products and services or in their marketing, most likely because there is not a climate of trust to promote this collaboration.

By the absence of this climate companies that have integrated some knowledge about the new opportunities from the networks do not come out of its embryonic state of collaboration, and feel difficulty in perceiving a decrease of risk that networked collaboration features.

Building trust is a vital issue and a facilitator for businesses when we establish connections in the network. The first step is to create confidence in the newly introduced models at the upper management level, within the leaders and managers and then expanding that communication to all employees.

When a company built the internal trust among its employees and management, an essential step to progression in an environment of open innovation, its employees become imbued with the ambition of being innovative. Today, it seems to be a irrefutable fact that innovation doesn’t happen without connections and without nets and consequently, the employees of the companies will face the same challenges of trust that their leaders or managers face.

These open connections and networks are the result of an era of intense technological development where exchanges of knowledge are now through third-party applications, so addressing these challenges of trust becomes even more important. The more evolved the technology provided, more credibility and greater responsiveness of third parties is required.

“As a rule, in the Portuguese case, we have a strong emphasis on absorption”, says the researcher, explaining that the tendency, in Portugal, is that companies try to use technologies created outside their companies and do not use the surplus technologies that they have to share with others. This makes the Portuguese innovation model a relatively closed model when compared with countries where technological development is advanced. “

But, technology is not enough to increase levels of trust in open innovation. Whats is also necessary is a greater collaboration and the creation of a common language, the transformation of implicit into explicit and the acquisition of meaning and purpose of the project.


About Author

About Author

José António Baldaia

José Baldaia is a Psychologist specializing in Organizational Behavior. He lives and works in Portugal as a consultant in Management and Innovation, mainly for SMEs with special attention to the roles and importance of HR in innovation process, and is also a successful facilitator for team building in interdisciplinary environments and behavior training. He is a researcher in the areas of innovation and tools of thought creativity, design thinking and service design; teaches New Organizational Context and Business Process Implementation – BPM; and has a degree in Psychology from the University of Porto

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