Whether it's a faster way to move data, a cheaper way to power a car or a cleaner way to sweep up dust bunnies, the right innovation can deliver huge profits to an organization. But given today's fast-paced global marketplace and limited resources for research and development, companies often struggle simply to survive, let alone innovate.
Yet the same forces that have flattened our world may also yield new directions for the future of innovation. During a recent conference at the Mack Center for Technological Innovation, academics and business leaders argued that, rather than going back to the drawing board, companies should go outside their walls and tap into "innovation networks."
An "innovation network" is a web of people, institutions or companies outside of a firm that helps it solve problems or come up with new ideas. While organizations have formed alliances and strategic partnerships for hundreds of years, experts say this web of connections is becoming increasingly important today.
Despite their importance, alliances between companies only succeed about 40% of the time, said Wharton management professor Harbir Singh, a conference organizer and Mack Center co-director. "Why is the success rate not higher?" Singh asked. "How do we improve performance above 40%?"