“It’s not what we start
that determines
our innovation results,
but what we finish.”

– Henry Chesbrough





  • Most of the smart people work elsewhere
  • The world is our lab
  • Exploit knowledge through many channels
  • Leverage and profit from our IP
  • Startups can stimulate our innovation
  • Universities important for long term R&D

Closed Innovation Logic

  • Most of the smart people work for us
  • The lab is our world
  • Hoard knowledge for ourselves
  • Use our IP to exclude competitors
  • Startups are weak and incapable
  • Universities unimportant to long term

Key Insights 

There is a paradox between the promise of exponential technology and the reality of economic productivity. We must make investments as a society in generating, disseminating, and absorbing the technology, if we are to resolve this paradox.

To get more business value from open innovation within companies, we similarly need to invest not only in generation, but also in dissemination and absorption within our organizations.

Too often we are distracted by the “bright shiny objects” of new technologies. What matters is not the innovations you start, but the innovations you finish. Only then do businesses reap the profits from their innovation, and only then does society realize the benefit as well.

There is a Valley of Death between the completion of a successful science project and the effective commercial use of a new technology. More open science will help, but we also need institutions to support risk-taking, capital investment, and intellectual property to cross the Valley of Death. There is a second Valley of Death inside large companies, between the front end of their innovation process, and the back end business units that take the innovations to market. Organizations need mechanisms to organize, fund, and staff projects to move them across this second Valley of Death.

Startups are an important resource for open innovation. Lean Startup processes have transformed the ways that startups do business. Large companies need to adopt these processes too. But the large company context differs from that of a startup. Just as it is a mistake to tell a small company to write a complete business plan like a large company, so too is it a mistake to tell a large company to act just like a small one. Lean Startup processes must be adapted inside a large company, if they are to succeed.

  • Widen the intake
  • More eyes on the problem
  • Unusual sources for novel solutions
  • Useful knowledge is abundant
  • Expand downstream capacity
  • Open up internally
  • Open up externally
  • Reduce friction
  • Move people
  • Train People
  • Complete the Solution
  • Align with BU’s
  • Align with Business Model

“At Enel, Open Innovation is combined with Sustainability, to make what we call Innovability, which we have embedded in our business model and our operations. They create shared value for the Company and all of its stakeholders. ​Open Innovation Results​ addresses the changing environment in which most companies operate by moving past the hype of Open Innovation, putting theory into practice and achieving tangible results”.

Francesco Starace

CEO and General Manager, Enel

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