This year’s Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize goes to the fall 2011 MIT SMR article by Eoin Whelan, Salvatore Parise, Jasper de Valk and Rick Aalbers entitled “Creating Employee Networks That Deliver Open Innovation.”
The authors note that companies such as Procter & Gamble, Cisco Systems, Genzyme, General Electric and Intel are often credited with having attained market leadership through open innovation strategies. By tapping into and exploiting technological knowledge beyond their own in-house research and development structures, these companies outmaneuvered rivals. But while other organizations try to follow the example set by these trailblazers, the authors’ research suggests that many are failing because they neglect to ensure that the outside ideas reach the people best equipped to exploit them.
This article makes important contributions to research and practice as virtual and face-to-face networks evolve together in organizations. In the vital area of innovation, the authors identify the “idea connector” as one who transmits ideas from an “idea scout.” Successful connectors have the interpersonal skills and informal contacts to complement the work of the scouts, whose information collection is often primarily Web-based.
The authors use data from their analysis of network connections as well as extensive personal interviews. They offer recommendations to senior managers and R&D leaders toward identifying and rewarding the connectors and scouts in their roles over the phases of innovation.
In making their decision, the judges noted that Richard Beckhard recognized the central and fundamental importance of effective communications and interpersonal relationships to an organization’s business success as well as to employee motivation and fulfillment. He would, they concluded, have insisted we look closely at how technology both enables and constrains organizational and personal productivity and effectiveness, and this year’s winning article takes up that concern with insight and practical significance.
This year’s panel of judges consisted of distinguished members of the MIT Sloan School of Management faculty: Schussel Family Professor of Management Science and chairman of the MIT Sloan Management Review managing board Erik Brynjolfsson, retired senior lecturer Cyrus Gibson and Erwin H. Schell Professor of Management John Van Maanen.