A Belgian study suggests finds ways to manage partners in open innovation networks:
1. Select the right partners: Open innovation succeeds only if a small/medium enterprise chooses partners well. Screen candidates: they need to have the same attitudes towards collaboration and risk.
2. Exercise leadership: The company that took the initiative to develop a new product should display clear leadership, organising and managing the innovation network.
3. Stay active: Inactivity is deadly for networks. Phasing, a sense of urgency and continuous progress are strong motivators. SMEs should set agendas and stimulate each other.
4. Rules matter: A well-oiled network increases the speed and productivity of innovation and strong leadership means disciplining partners that do not play by agreed rules and values.
5. Be open: Innovation partners need to communicate and report openly. They have to trust each other to charge a reasonable price for products or services to others in the network.
6. Aim for balance: Reconcile the needs of your company with management of the network – and keep your workers in the loop.
7. Size matters: It is easier to collaborate with partners of a similar size and small firms work well together because they have similar decision-making processes, financial limitations, approaches to innovation and business cultures. But they also need to have similar ambitions.
8. Control costs: Different partners are preoccupied with their own parts of the project and send invoices to the central firm. Make sure costs do not soar. Set priorities with partners.
9. Never stop learning: The central company in an innovation network must know partner’s competencies inside out. When partners hit a problem, it should know who can solve it.