Recent research into 'open innovation’ from Vlerick Business School suggests that companies should organise their human resources policy like a top football club.

Professor Katleen De Stobbeleir found that effective people management will promote open innovation, the act of looking beyond company boundaries to cooperate with research centres, companies or other partners for inspiration.

The report states that the best ways to draw on influences outside of company boundaries include using social media to connect with the outside world and hiring a diverse range of employees for maximum creativity.

Open innovators are defined as creative team players that can express themselves clearly, have an open mind, a curious nature and the ability to build relationships. Informal recruitment channels, such as personal recommendations, and certain working environments, for instance being able to use social media, were found to lead to ideal conditions for open innovators to operate in.

De Stobbeleir says, “Open innovation is a human activity. People management and the business culture are therefore crucial. However, this is often where the difficulty lies: employees are not encouraged sufficiently to innovate outside the bounds of their company or business unit.

“As an organisation, you almost need to organise your human resources policy like some of the top football clubs, which loan players to another club, let them gain two years’ experience and then take them back.

“When it comes to promoting open innovation, people management practices are just the start; the whole organisation must be infused with its value.”