Feb 9

Social Networking best practice for effective Open Innovation

 

Recently I’ve been reading Driving results through social networks by Bob Cross. I wanted to read this book because I’m looking for insights into the latest thinking on building new external Value Networks for organisations engaged in Open Innovation. Although a lot of the book is focused on the important area of improving internal networks within organisations I was struck by the section of the book dealing with behaviours which can energise networks both inside and outside of organisations. Here are the behaviours which were encouraged:

1. Do what you say you’re going to do and address tough issues with integrity. Cross says that people are energised by people that stand for something bigger than themselves. I would put it more simply – trust is important for any form of networking to work. Being consistent helps to build trust.

2. Look for realistic possibilities in conversations and avoid focusing too early or heavily on obstacles. Clearly this behaviour is critical to getting people to offer and build on ideas. I would say that Cross could go further here by suggesting that sometimes you have to suspend disbelief for a while and go with a conversation. I think the word “realistic” is a bit of a dangerous word to apply to early stage conversations as it implies an “already listening” mindset where it is easy to screen out options which might have potential when combined with other input from elsewhere in the network.

3. Become mentally and physically engaged in meetings and conversations. I would suggest that this can be take even further by bringing real enthusiasm to the interaction. I’ve often found that injecting enthusiasm into a discussion at the right time can help propel the development of new ideas. Often the other person in the conversation is already passionate about the subject area and reflecting rather than dampening that can really help to bring out new ideas and insights.

4. Be flexible in your thinking and use your expertise appropriately. I often advise clients to engage with external/internal experts from complimentary disciplines to support their decision making. This practice, in itself, is part of the process of opening up the innovation activity.

5. When you disagree, focus on the issue at hand and not the individual. This is pretty obvious really, but if this rule is ignored the trust can quickly disappear from an interaction.

The book contains some good advice, especially for senior managers wishing to improve performance of their business and even includes a section on calculating the value of a network. From my viewpoint I was hoping for a little more on Open Innovation and external networks.

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