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The challenges of open innovation: Between combativeness, walls, and opportunities

Wichtigkeit des Innovationsmanagement

Who builds a fortress around himself will always weigh himself in battle. Openness and empathy are the keys to success for exchange and open innovation.

Open Innovation, the concept of opening the boundaries of one's corporate fortress to influences and knowledge from outside, presents a multitude of opportunities but also challenges. This article sheds light on why the implementation of Open Innovation often encounters difficulties and how the perception of companies as warriors in a competitive environment contributes to it.

Understanding the principle of openness

Open Innovation requires not only taking perspectives and knowledge but also giving. Companies must transform their perspective from a competition-oriented battlefield to a cooperative space where the exchange of ideas and knowledge is seen as enrichment rather than weakness.

Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.

1912, The Titusville Herald newspaper

The challenge of the warrior mentality

Many companies view their environment as a battleground, where the goal is to win customers through greed and pressuring other participants to gain profits from them. While this warrior mentality may apply to companies cornered and fighting for survival, it begs the question of how this situation arose and why proactive measures weren't taken, especially if innovation initiatives result from declining returns. This "survivalist mindset" often leads to mistrust and hinders the implementation of Open Innovation, particularly when collaborating with industry-related or unrelated individuals and companies.

Empathy as the key to success

Open Innovation requires not only technological exchange but also interpersonal connections and perspectives. Companies that do not empathize with other ideas, cultures, and people face rejection. It is crucial to foster a culture of collaboration based on trust and respect. Listening, observing, and understanding how other companies and markets operate form the foundation for considering the benefits the company can derive from it.

This also means showing openness, presenting one's own approaches, and explaining why they were chosen. Openness in this context does not mean showing vulnerability but rather raising the value of alliances on an equal footing significantly.

Openness arises from closeness, authenticity and empathy.

The fine line between openness and confidentiality.

It is essential to emphasize that openness does not equate to divulging trade secrets. Companies can still protect sensitive information while creating a space for mutual exchange of non-sensitive ideas. An openness and a balanced relationship between openness and protection are crucial for the success of Open Innovation.

The importance of communication and transparency

Communication plays a central role in the implementation of Open Innovation. Companies should transparently communicate their goals, processes, and expectations regarding collaboration to build trust. It is equally important to clearly communicate about which topics cannot be discussed to delineate the scope of collaboration. Open dialogues foster knowledge exchange and facilitate collaboration.

Flexibility and adaptability as key qualities

The dynamic nature of Open Innovation requires companies to be flexible and adaptable. Rigid mindsets and structures must be broken to make room for creative visions, ideas, strategies, solutions, and new perspectives. This is likely to be achieved more readily with individuals who are naturally open to change, do not cling to the status quo, and are willing to dedicate a significant portion of their time to exploring new business fields and models.

However, it is equally important to provide these individuals with a secure framework to protect them from possible setbacks or strategy changes. Since they operate outside the walls of their own company and take risks, they should not be shot down but rather regarded as knowledge creators and carriers of change.

The role of leaders in implementing open innovation

Leaders play a crucial role in creating a culture of openness. Their commitment, support, and ability to convey a clear vision for the future significantly influence the success of Open Innovation in a company. If innovation is not anchored and lived in the company's vision, a change in leadership can have far-reaching consequences. The takeover of project ownership by successors may be jeopardized, and entire innovation strategies could be discarded overnight.

Experiences, best practices, and success stories

Understanding successful implementations of Open Innovation can inspire companies and provide clear action approaches. By sharing experiences, best practices, and success stories within the organization and with ecosystem partners, uncertainties can be reduced, and motivation for implementation can be strengthened. It's not about disclosing secrets but about creating and sharing new knowledge together.


Open Innovation may appear as a risky step at first glance, but the long-term benefits outweigh the challenges. Companies willing to change their mindset, open up to other people and organizations with their ideas and perspectives, and integrate empathy into their innovation processes will not only be able to compete successfully but also pave the way for future developments from various perspectives – whether from the perspective of other people or industries.

The path to open innovation requires a deep understanding of the challenges, but the rewards are worth it. It's about breaking down the walls of traditional thinking, promoting collaborative approaches, and creating an atmosphere where ideas can flow freely. Companies that boldly embrace these changes will not only benefit from new impulses and fresh perspectives but also have the opportunity to position themselves as innovation leaders. The key lies in not only taking knowledge but also giving generously – because in openness lies the key to a sustainable and successful future.

Yetvart Artinyan

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1. Chesbrough, H. W. (2003). Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology. Harvard Business Press.

2. Pisano, G. P. (2019). The Hard Truth About Innovative Cultures. Harvard Business Review.

3. West, J., & Bogers, M. (2017). Leveraging external sources of innovation: a review of research on open innovation. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 34(2), 290-323.

4. Lichtenthaler, U. (2011). Open innovation: Past research, current debates, and future directions. Academy of Management Perspectives, 25(1), 75-93.

5. Spender, J. C., & Scherer, A. G. (2007). The Philosophical Foundations of Open Innovation. Research Policy, 36(10), 1411-1420.

6. Van de Vrande, V., De Jong, J. P., Vanhaverbeke, W., & De Rochemont, M. (2009). Open innovation in SMEs: Trends, motives and management challenges. Technovation, 29(6-7), 423-437.

7. Dahlander, L., & Gann, D. M. (2010). How open is innovation?. Research Policy, 39(6), 699-709.



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