Open Innovation Works


by Dr. Diana Joseph, Dan Toma & Esther Gons

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As a corporate leader, you know better than most that innovation is a business imperative, and you can’t do it completely in-house due to structural constraints. How to proceed? The answer is open innovation — partnering with outside entities like universities, government agencies, peer firms, and startups. But there are so many limits, mysteries and tradeoffs!

The Open Innovation Works book is designed to demystify the world of open innovation and help you get the most out of your innovation spend — through frameworks, hands-on templates, case studies and the right day-to-day practices.

Complementing the previous books The Corporate Startup and Innovation Accounting, Open Innovation Works takes you on a journey from identifying the right kind of open innovation for your organizational context, through bringing that vision to life.

In their experience in the field of innovation, co-authors Dr. Diana Joseph, Dan Toma and Esther Gons have seen that open innovation initiatives tend to begin with a big, expensive splash and close 1-3 years later with little to no impact on ROI, learnings or anything else.  This book prevents you from that kind of waste.

The Authors

Diana Joseph

Dr. Diana Joseph, PhD, is an entrepreneur and learning scientist who learned about corporate innovation in the field through years at companies like Adobe and Citrix.  As CEO of the Corporate Accelerator Forum, Diana has developed a guidance community for corporates who innovate through startup partnership.  She translates her insights into powerful and practical in-person and online events, ecosystem experiences and consulting engagements.  Diana co-hosted the Ecosystem Show podcast and in Summer 2022 initiated Click | the Startup Accelerator for Corporate Partnership, a preparatory engine for startups who need to create healthier deals with corporates.  Diana lives on Tamien land in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Dan Toma

Dan Toma is an innovation thought leader. He started his career in entrepreneurship, being involved with technology startups across the world. Puzzled by the questions ‘why are innovative products mainly launched by startups?’, together with his team at the consultancy company OUTCOME, he focuses on enterprise innovation transformation. Specifically on the changes blue-chip organizations need to make to allow for new ventures to be built in a corporate setting.

The work experience gathered from the public and private sector has been translated into various experiential courses that Dan has delivered for universities such as Royal Academy of Engineering (UK) or the University of Applied Science Rhein-Main (Germany).

Dan holds a dual degree MBA from Bradford University (UK) and TiasNimbas Business School (The Netherlands)  and he was featured on the Thinkers50 2020 Radar list of management thinkers to watch while also being a member of the World Economic Forum’s working group on accelerating digital transformation.

Esther Gons

Esther Gons is the founder and CEO of GroundControl. GroundControl is the Innovation Accounting software platform that implements all the best practices from the Innovation Accounting book to help corporate ventures with the development of new business models. GroundControl works with clients such as DHL, Colgate Palmolive, Schiphol Group, and ABN Amro bank.

Esther is co-author of The Corporate Startup and is an international speaker on corporate innovation, innovation accounting, portfolio management, and startups. She has been an entrepreneur for over 20 years and mentored several hundred startups so far, as investor at NEXT Startup Ventures, lead mentor in the Rockstart Accelerator programmes, and several corporate innovation labs.

Table of Contents


1. Why do we need open innovation?

Large organizations are often limited in the degree to which they can explore uncertain or complex challenges. Open innovation is partnership with outside entities such as startups, small businesses and governments that can move faster, more locally, or with more diverse sources of capital. But open innovation is not for everyone, some companies might need it more than others and some might actually not need it at all.  Does your organization need open innovation?  Find out with our quiz!

2.How does an open innovation ecosystem work?

Open innovation takes place in a complex exchange system — participants give, and also receive.  In this chapter we dig into how those exchanges work to create a stable backdrop for exploration, what large firms need to contribute, and how they can receive the benefits.  This chapter will also describe the pros and cons of all the ways you can engage with your ecosystem.


3. How do you get ready to play in the ecosystem?

Start by aligning your internal stakeholders — gather your allies around a single set of shared strategic goals and tactical commitments.  Use our dashboard to guide this alignment process and learn exactly what you need to do to build that alignment.  In the next several chapters, we’ll walk through the dashboard step by step.

4. Vision & Mission

Your firm already has a vision — it’s probably on your website and displayed in your lobby.  What will your open innovation works take on in support of that vision?  How will you inspire and focus the energies of your internal stakeholders as well as your external partners? 

5. Strategy

Define the goals for your open innovation play:  What will you aim to achieve for customers? What will you aim to achieve financially?  What will you aim to achieve in terms of purpose?

6. Tactics

In order to realize your open innovation mission and achieve your goals, you’ll need some commitments from internal stakeholders up front:  How will your organization draw in learnings from your open innovation journey?  How will your culture change in terms of incentives and messages so that staff recognizes the invitation to invest time in your open innovation plan?  What processes need to change so that your partnerships thrive instead of getting stuck in your gears?  And what resources are your stakeholders committing — time, treasure, equipment, materials, etc. 

7. How to choose an innovation vehicle

You know what your ecosystem needs.  Your stakeholders are aligned. What are you actually going to do to generate partners?  Sponsor a backbone organization?  Hold events?  Create a competition?  Work with a 3rd party accelerator or VC?  Develop your own?  Engage proof-of-concept and pilot projects?  We’ll walk you through a framework to help you decide.

8. OKRs & Metrics

You need to measure your progress to know what’s working or what’s not, and how close you are to the finish line in terms of your goals. Drawing on co-authors Gons & Toma’s work in Innovation Accounting, we’ll develop OKRs for each strategic goal and each tactical commitment — we’ll even measure the learning you acquire along the way. 


9. Start tomorrow

Complete our self-audit to find out what’s next for you on your open innovation journey — what strengths can you draw on, and what do you need to build? 

From the Same Series

The Corporate Startup

Winner of the 2019 Golden Axiom Business Book Award and the 2018 Management Book Of The Year Award.

The Corporate Startup is a practical guide for established companies that aspire to develop and sustain their innovation capabilities.

‘A key reading for leaders that outlines how to effectively innovate for the future and boost growth, while running the core business.’
– Alexander Osterwalder, co-author of ‘Business Model Generation’.

Innovation Accounting

Winner of the 2022 Golden Axiom Business Book Award.
“A great read to uncover why a “one-size-fits-all” approach for
measuring your innovation portfolio doesn’t work, and how you can
outsize impact by deploying a modern and comprehensive innovation
accounting system”.
-Alexa Dembek, CTO Dupont
Innovation Accounting is an essential go-to practical guide for anyone that wants to measure their company’s innovation ecosystem performance using more than just financial indicators.

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