Innovative Companies Must Excel at Partnering

futurelab default header

by: John Caddell

There’s a fascinating interview at Harvard Business School Working Knowledge with HBS professor Alan MacCormack, covering innovation and how it’s moving away from Corporate R&D and into a collaborative web of partnering & alliances. (You can find a working paper on the subject here.)

According to MacCormack, there are several reasons why this is so:

  1. Products are becoming more complex, and therefore it’s impossible to retain all the competencies in house to create them.
  2. Open standards and architectures help allow work to be more readily distributed to partners.
  3. The growth of developing economies means that competitive, at times distinctive work is available at lower prices.

The implications of collaborative innovation fascinate me. It means that R&D professionals will need more negotiation and management skills than technical skills, and that the ability to manage internal politics will be less important than the need to bridge corporate & geographic cultures.

I’m not aware of anything in business-school curricula to prepare the next generation of managers for this challenge. (HBS students should seek out courses by Bazerman and Malhotra, as well as MacCormack.) There certainly was nothing of this sort that I learned for my MBA–any learning was entirely OJT.

Original Post: