Open Innovation: Collaborate to Compete
When it comes to innovation, no company is nimble enough, rich enough or smart enough to go it alone, according to a panel of experts from Comcast, AT&T and Independence Blue Cross. Tomorrow’s successful companies will collaborate with their competitors today.
“It’s counterintuitive because we think if we share ideas we’re losing our competitive advantage,” said Donna De Carolis, Ph.D., dean of Drexel University’s Close School of Entrepreneurship. “Knowledge is too great and too dispersed to get ahead by internal R&D alone.”
De Carolis moderated a Feb. 21 program sponsored by the Corporate and Executive Education unit of Drexel’s LeBow College of Business and its Executive MBA program. She was joined by Steve Heeb, vice president of business development at Comcast; Michael Brophy, chief architect for technology strategies with AT&T; and Somesh Nigam, Ph.D., SVP and chief informatics officer at Independence Blue Cross.
“Health insurers have been engaged in this practice for quite some time,” said Nigam. “A lot of what we do has to be done outside our four walls. What my generation called cheating new generations call collaborating. We are working with Drexel to train a new generation of leaders who are not proprietary or afraid of working across boundaries.”
AT&T’s Brophy said his company has nearly 150,000 participants who submit and evaluate more than 500 innovation ideas a month. “The best ideas percolate to the top, and we have angel investors inside the company to turn these into revenue-generating ideas,” he said. AT&T also shares one-page write-ups on innovative ideas with a consortium of companies who do the same; Microsoft is a member of the group.
Comcast’s Heeb said the cable and communications giant turns to outside partners to identify and develop innovations in fields outside its traditional areas of expertise. “Technology is moving too fast to go it alone,” he said.