You should outsource innovation if...
Too many firms have the right people, good ideas and senior management commitment, but simply cannot find the time to innovate. Obviously this suggests a misalignment of the focus and engagement of the teams and the goals of management, but there it is. I've worked in several firms where there is clear commitment from the top - demonstrated in people resources and in dollar resources - but innovation gets shoved aside because people can't be pulled away from their day to day tasks.
So it's time to consider a completely different model - if you can outsource your payroll, outsource manufacturing and other key elements of your business, why not outsource innovation? In this regard I think the firm outsourcing innovation would suggest key areas of focus for a third party outsourcer to consider, and would provide some measure of resource availability for brainstorming and other activities. However, once the ideas are generated, the outsourced firm would run interference on the ideas, evaluate based on agreed criteria, research competitors and present the firm with what it considers the best ideas. An outsourcer could also spend more time looking at trends in an industry and synthesizing what's happening in the industry and key opportunities for innovation in terms of products, services or business models. I guess the question becomes - what's core competency and critical for success of your business, and what can be outsourced or managed by teams that are experts in innovation?
If your team is sold on innovation as an important key criteria for growth and differentiation, how much of the process should you run and manage in house, and how much should you outsource to innovation teams that have the depth, breadth and availability to innovate and are not locked down by your culture and bureaucracy?
The more I work with innovation, the more it becomes clear that some firms can innovate because it is simply part of their DNA, some firms can learn to be innovative, and some firms, while they want to be innovative, will have difficulty finding the time and the focus for innovation, even though they recognize it is important. Maybe the innovation industry should consider a new offering - not just a hosted software application, but a fully managed outsourced process and solution for innovation.