Faculty Research: Mohanbir Sawhney, Marketing
the 'Global Brain'
Sawhney's new book is a guide to 'embracing openness' to drive
innovation in a networked world
once hired teams of researchers to create the Next Big Thing.
in AT&T's Bell Laboratories and IBM's Watson Research
Center, for instance, these innovators labored in privacy,
their creativity guarded like state secrets. Often they worked
without much input from customers, partners or suppliers.
Internet, and hyper-competition, has changed that. Increasingly,
companies engage outsiders in creating new products and processes.
are running faster and faster to stay at the same spot,"
Sawhney, the McCormick Tribune Professor of Technology.
"To sustain growth, they must drive up by an order of
magnitude their speed of innovation. They can do this by tapping
their external networks for ideas on staying competitive and
developing new products."
how? It's not simply a matter of flinging open the research
lab's doors, Sawhney explains. Indeed, depending on the firm's
nature and goals, a company ought to plot its foray into what
Sawhney calls "network-centric innovation."
who is also director of the Kellogg
Center for Research in Technology and Innovation, aims
to provide a guide to this frontier with his new book, The
Global Brain: Your Roadmap for Innovating Faster and Smarter
in a Networked World. Co-authored by Rensselaer Polytechnic
Institute professor Satish Nambisan, the book is a "how-to"
for managers seeking to engage external communities in innovation.
'global brain' is a metaphor for the wealth of talent and
creativity in your extended network," Sawhney says. "Not
all the smartest people work for you, and you can't innovate
alone. How do you tap into the global brain to drive innovation
successfully exploiting networked resources include Procter
& Gamble, which commercializes ideas submitted by individual
inventors through its "Connect+Develop" program.
With this effort, the company has doubled its innovation rate.
The authors also tout Boeing, which turned to a global partner
network to design its groundbreaking 787 Dreamliner aircraft.
what works for one organization or project might not work
for another. Sawhney
and Nambisan stress the importance of analyzing both the "innovation
space" — the knowledge base or technologies the
company hopes to exploit — and the sort of "network
leadership" the company plans to employ.
on where firms are on those scales, the authors prescribe
one of four models: the Creative Bazaar, the Orchestra, the
Jam Central and the Mod Station.
for example, employs the Creative Bazaar. The company shops
for new ideas, products and technologies at a global market
of its own creation.
Boeing, on the other hand, already had a vision of
its 787 Dreamliner. In this case, the firm played conductor
to an "Orchestra" of customers, suppliers, technical
experts and other partners to develop the new aircraft's components.
third approach — the Jam Central model — is more
improvisational, involving a group of contributors who share
the research effort. The Mod Station, meanwhile, invites others
to modify an existing product, process or service.
point is, one size does not fit all," Sawhney says. "We
define the different methods and models to help firms determine
which approach will work best for them."
book discusses how managers can lay the groundwork for their
organizations to look outside for innovation. Challenges can
include developing capabilities and shifting "proprietary"
mindsets, and Global Brain suggests how to accomplish
both. The authors also detail how to execute and evaluate
these network-centric initiatives.
about innovating smarter and faster in a networked world,"
Sawhney says. "How do you embrace openness? How do you
drive change? This is a toolkit for getting the innovation
advantage and harnessing the global brain."