Tag Archives: open innovation

Open supplier innovation?

In class, it was stated that the best ideas in crowdsourcing come from people outside the topic or differently stated, without much knowledge on the good or service. In this post, I would like to take the opportunity to stress the influence of supplier involvement when discussing open innovation to generate ideas. Thus, using a different perspective, more B2B and upstream focused. Would it be helpful in idea generation to include knowledgeable suppliers?

In the article by Alexy et al. (2011), it was noticed that input delivered by suppliers was interesting as specific technical needs are known, resulting in higher quality ideas submitted. Therefore, concluding that signaling more requirements or restrictions to consumers could increase the number of valuable submissions. This could address an aspect also mentioned during the class, where companies (e.g., Philips and Dell) face issues with the quality delivered by submissions of the crowd.

First, supplier involvement can be considered as “the integration of the capabilities that suppliers can contribute to NPD projects” (Johnsen, 2009, p. 187).  A literature review by Johnsen (2009) states factors that successfully affect supplier involvement. The successful factors studied are supplier selection, supplier relationship development & adaption, and internal customer capabilities. These factors facilitate a shorter time for the product to enter the market as well as improve the product quality, and reduce development and product costs. More importantly, the review indicates that supplier involvement should be further studied in-depth as different thoughts on innovation related to the involvement of suppliers exist. Namely, the article states that existing suppliers could be too familiar with the product leading to limited innovation. Thus, in line with earlier mentioned, a ‘crowd’ without prior knowledge provides better solutions.

Later, a North American longitudinal study by Yeniyurt et al. (2014), specifically on supplier involvement in buyer’s NPD, indicates that among various aspects, buyer-supplier communication and suppliers’ trust of a buyer significantly influences the participation of a supplier towards co-innovation and supplier involvement in a buyer’s NPD. Furthermore, the study found that co-innovation as well as financial performance of both the supplier and buyer increases when suppliers are actively involved in the buyers NPD. Hence, more reasons supporting the involvement of suppliers when aiming to generate ideas.

A related business an example can be taken from the Unilever. In 2012, Unilever launched an ‘Open Innovation Submission Portal’ to collaborate with its suppliers. Currently, the platform is still perceived as successful and therefore, still operating and evolving (Procurementleaders, 2012; Unilever, 2017). The portal provides experts of certain processes to share and optimize products from their specialist or technical view.

All in all, I do believe that it is valuable for companies, aiming to be innovative, to include suppliers in generating ideas on product development. Not only to create submissions of higher quality, and a trustful relationship. Moreover, a broad and diverse crowd consisting of both consumers and suppliers might be optimal in order to include all viewpoints to generate the best value for the customer.


Alexy, O., Criscuolo, P., & Salter, A. (2011). No soliciting: strategies for managing unsolicited innovative ideas. California Management Review, 54(3), 116-139.

Johnsen, T., E., (2009). Supplier involvement in new product development and innovation: Taking stock and looking to the future. Journal of Purchasing and Supply Management, 15 (3), 187-197.

Yeniyurt, S., Henke, J.W., & Yalcinkaya, G. (2014) A longitudinal analysis of supplier involvement in buyers’ new product development: working relations, inter-dependence, co-innovation, and performance outcomes. Journal of Academey of Marketing Science, 42, 291-308.




Mapping the Impact of Social Media for Innovation

Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Wikis, Twitter – Social media (SM) are everywhere. Those websites and applications allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content in a community setting (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). The users are not only private people, but also companies are exploring SM as a tool for commercial success. Next to outbound marketing, SM are also applied to enhance business interactions as part of the innovation and product development process (Kenly & Poston, 2011). However, so far new product development (NPD) through social media channels can only be observed anecdotally. Specialized consultancies also jump on the train and offer their services to get a piece of the pie (Accenture Interactive, 2017). But how nourishing is this pie?

The impact of SM on innovation performance was investigated in a study by Roberts, Piller and Lüttgens (2016). The analysis of 186 companies contributed to a better understanding of the dynamics between SM activities and NPD performance. The idea to use SM for innovation and NPD purposes is not novel. However, their study reveals some surprising results:

  • Gathering information from SM channels can lead to higher performance, but only when embedded in complementary, formalized processes. A defined structure and sequence for the flow of activities provides control, helps to reduce uncertainty and mitigates risk.
  • The relationship between SM usage and innovation performance is not entirely positive. An extremely broad application of SM results in a negative performance effect for all kind of innovation projects.
  • The relationship between seeking market-related and technology-related information in the open innovation context is complementary. Leveraging this dependency has a significant positive effect on NPD performance.
  • SM is better suited for gathering need information than for accessing solution information. Depending on the information needed, the explicit SM channels (forums, social networks, blogs, wikis etc.) differ.

These findings imply the positivity of SM for a firm’s innovation performance. But I personally doubt its large-scale effectiveness. After having screened the literature for mentioned best-practice examples, there are enormous differences between companies in how they leverage and exploit benefits of SM usage for innovative efforts. The involvement of customers into new product creations for consumer goods rather resembles the characteristics of a marketing or market research tools. Haribo asked its fan base to vote on new flavors for a special edition during the 2014 soccer world cup. Home-appliances manufacturer Liebherr invited its customers to participate in a fridge-design competition. In contrast to that, I found technology-oriented companies, like NASA, or IBM in collaboration with Topcoder, to give their followers far more influential power by posting demanding challenges. This is surprising, because the study stated SM to be more suitable for gathering needs than (technical) solutions. So, is there a difference between industries concerning the successful integration of SM in NPD? Are technology companies simply more knowledgeable in utilizing SM? Or are their users simply identifying more with the product and thus engaging in NPD processes? The multitude of questions call for a further investigation of the results in relation to different industries and specific firm capabilities in dealing with SM. Hence, up to now how nourishing and likely this cake for businesses and consultancies is, might still be questionable and has to be answered for individual initiatives specifically.



Accenture Interactive (2017). Social Media: Optimization to Harness Innovation. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insight-social-media-optimization-harness-innovation-summary

Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media. Business horizons53(1), 59-68.

Kenly, A., & Poston, B. (2011). Social Media and Product Innovation: Early Adopters Reaping Benefits amidst Challenge and Uncertainty. In A Kalypso White Paper. Kalypso.

Roberts, D. L., Piller, F. T., & Lüttgens, D. (2016). Mapping the Impact of Social Media for Innovation: The Role of Social Media in Explaining Innovation Performance in the PDMA Comparative Performance Assessment Study. Journal of Product Innovation Management33(S1), 117-135.

Open for Ideation: Individual-Level Openness & Idea Generation in R&D

In today’s business environment, information and innovation are key to success. Companies are constantly trying to improve their offerings and business model by increasing their knowledge about customers, competitors, products, services and new technologies. To achieve this open innovation practises are increasingly used, but a major part of the knowledge in companies is generated by individuals who do research to generate new ideas and capture opportunities. This required know-how can be illustration_1_light-bulb-team-work_1-750x696sourced from within the company or from external sources. Nowadays, individuals performing R&D functions are encouraged to seek for knowledge outside the boundaries of the firm. This requires more openness to external sources. However, according Salter et al. (2015) an individual’s openness to external sources of knowledge is curvilinear related to the ability of that individual to develop new and useful ideas for the organization (e.g. ideation performance).

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