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technology scouting works harvard business review study

Harvard Business Review Technology Scouting Study
Technology Scouting Can Increase the Rate and Potential for Meaningful Innovation


Competitive, innovative industries must always keep their sights on the horizon for emerging technologies set to disrupt their business. Whether it’s the R&D, product development, marketing, or engineering department, companies must better align their resources to collaborate and ideate the best new ideas for market. If you don’t have a dedicated innovation team, how do you identify what areas to do technology discovery and set goals for your Innovation Portfolio? The Harvard Business Review article “How Big Companies Should Scout New Technologies” provides advice for your changing innovation goals.

Another study conducted by the Harvard Business Review makes the case for technology scouting while also admitting that it can turn into a double-edged sword when executed poorly. The research clearly shows that connecting with a wide range of external resources, including: universities, competitors and research institutions, can increase the rate of and potential for meaningful innovation. However, dedicating too much time to these external efforts can decrease current productivity and cause employees to turn away from internal relationships that have the same potential to yield innovative new ideas. As with most things in life, fully utilizing technology scouting comes down to achieving a balance on several different fronts.

Technology Scouting: Is an Internal or External Approach Best?

Ultimately, the success of external technology scouting comes down to a matter of time. On any given day, an average employee will spend time answering emails, attending meetings and collaborating with colleagues. That doesn’t exactly leave a lot of time to cultivate meaningful relationships with external sources. As a result, the Harvard study found that in contrast to most assumptions about open innovation, “respondent’s most common sources of inspiration for new ideas were their colleagues inside, rather than outside, the firm.”


technology scouting externally works internal resource useThose who were able to devote enough time to cultivating relationships with external resources were able to achieve innovation that was meaningful in both quality and quantity. However, those who created a broad network and were perhaps guilty of networking for networking’s sake, were not able to discover areas for innovation and learn how to turn valuable information into actionable ideas. At the same time, they were dedicating so much time to external relationships that they became disengaged from their own organization. With the right balance, external technology scouting can be a powerful resource, but a haphazard approach can create a slippery slope that eats away at productivity.

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How to Successfully Innovate Externally with Technology Scouting

The researchers used this information to develop a map for ways to make sure that company is successfully using external resources to drive innovation. Again, it all comes down to time management. Not every employee should be fixated on creating external innovations. Sometimes the solution is as simple as encouraging employees to interact more with other departments within the firm. Managers should be actively identifying employee strengths and deciding who should be building networks within the company and who should be tapped for building external networks.


External innovation also relies heavily on the ability to recognize good ideas and be able to devote time to discovering how that idea may benefit the company. All too often, employees get caught up in networking and end up with a long list of contacts, but are unable to convert those connections into meaningful innovations. It is better to establish deeper connections with a fewer external resources than to be spread too thin.

Finally, those who are cultivating external relationships also need to make sure that they are allocating time to develop new ideas and share findings with internal colleagues. As the study concludes: “Companies thus need to ensure that these employees not only devote time to networking externally, but also prioritize absorbing and applying what they learn—and diffusing this knowledge internally.” It takes time to process information and explore how new technology could be used to benefit the company. Bringing the germ of an idea to internal resources for development may be the best way to find the right balance between internal and external resources.

Why External Technology Scouting is Successful

As the researchers found, companies who created an external network and were able to make use of the information they acquired, were able to better capitalize on internal resources and successfully drive innovation. Technology scouting provides a way to streamline and accelerate this process so that employees find the right balance and manage their time effectively. Utilizing scouting technology is the perfect way to avoid some of the common pitfalls of external innovation efforts.


technology scouting works with automation


Scouting technology, from companies like Ezassi, works to cultivate relationships by relying on an existing network of curated problem-solvers and implementing automated functions. Continuous outreach efforts mean maximum return on efforts that won’t tie up employees’ time. In addition, searchbot technology will constantly work to scour the web for new information and experts can submit ideas through a user-friendly dashboard that will then score ideas according to a pre-determined set of criteria. This technology means that employees can develop meaningful relationships and identify new areas for innovation while also freeing up vital time that is necessary to process and develop ideas.

scouting technology infographicUltimately, the study revealed that executing external scouting may not be as straightforward as it appears at first glance. According to the researchers, without the right balance, external networking can be more of a distraction than a tool for progress: “cultivating a broad external network takes more time than people realize and involves certain tradeoffs. Our research shows that many people may be misallocating their time by trying to expand their external networks without devoting the additional time needed to truly learn how they can benefit from the ideas they come upon.”

Fortunately, advances in scouting technology can help employees and companies automate the networking and discovery process so that there is a focus on developing promising ideas. With the right combination of scouting technology and personal networking outreach, companies can leverage external resources to drive innovation within their company.

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