It is difficult to find good cases on how smaller companies have engaged with open innovation. It is also difficult to give strong advice on how such companies should engage with open innovation.
I have reflected much on this and I am approaching a conclusion that is slightly provocative: Open innovation is for big companies; not small companies.
Let me provide some reasons for this:
- Small companies are most often based on one product, service, technology or platform. They are bound to find partners around this in order to prosper let alone survive. This is, however, not open innovation in my mind. This is simply entrepreneurship.
- Small companies are not big enough to engage with open innovation, which I view as more of a mindset in which they innovate across many types of innovation and business functions. They just don’t have the organizational infrastructure – and need – to engage with open innovation.
- Small companies have a role to play in open innovation ecosystems, but they get the backseat. The big companies take the driver’s seat. In open innovation, companies either control the projects or they contribute to them. Big companies prefer projects where they are in control whereas smaller companies do not even get a choice unless they have something unique that allows them to run an ecosystem.
These are just some of my reflections on an important topic. It would be great to hear your views on this and also on how you would suggest small companies should embrace open innovation. That would be interesting for a follow-up post on this topic.