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How to build an innovators’ network

B. Kim Barnes (Barnes & Conti Associates, Inc., Berkeley, California, USA)
Olivier LeCointre (Industrial Operations, Merial (A Sanofi Company), Lyon, France)

Industrial and Commercial Training

ISSN: 0019-7858

Article publication date: 2 February 2015




The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how to build and maintain an active network of innovators inside a large organization.


The paper describes the process used by a senior manager at a large pharmaceutical company in France to create a flexible structure that would enable innovators and seekers of innovation to connect and move interesting and promising ideas toward implementation.


One of the authors describes his approach, which included inviting graduates of a program in innovation management to design the structure of the network. He has successfully conducted about 30 problem-centered network sessions, based upon the process taught in the Managing Innovation program (a copyrighted program of Barnes & Conti Associates Inc. and David Francis, PhD) These sessions have successfully moved a number of practical and creative ideas forward.

Research limitations/implications

The authors believe that this type of innovation network could be replicated successfully in other large organizations. The process, however, requires a senior manager who is a very involved and invested sponsor/champion.

Practical implications

Problems that require innovative solutions can be brought to a diverse group of innovators who are interested in working on it. The format involves multiple, rapid prototyping, and saves considerable time and money while providing practical and vetted solutions or inventions.

Social implications

An innovation network provides an outlet for members to use their creative imagination to address a wide variety of problems. In this way, they can continue to build their own skills while contributing value to their organizations.


Leaders always hope to maximize the value of their investment in training and development. Creating a format that takes advantage of and continues to build skills in areas such as innovation management optimizes an organization's ROI in leadership development while providing a valuable service to the organization.



© 2014 by B. Kim Barnes and Olivier Lecointre


Barnes, B.K. and LeCointre, O. (2015), "How to build an innovators’ network", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 47 No. 1, pp. 42-45.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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