A buyer's guide to the innovation bazaar

Satish Nambisan*, Mohanbir Sawhney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


Companies seeking new ideas or product concepts from outside sources may find the "innovation bazaar," with its wide array of choices and methods of acquiring them, a confusing, chaotic place. Nambisan and Sawhney have Grafted a conceptual guide for managers who understand the importance of going outside their firms for innovation but are uncertain about how to do it. The authors' "external sourcing continuum" shows at a glance how shopping for, say, raw ideas compares with shopping for market-ready products in terms of cost, risk, multiplicity of options, and speed of commercialization. Raw ideas, whether acquired directly from the inventor or through a patent broker, licensing agent, or some other intermediary, tend to be low cost but high risk and take a long time to bring to market. Market-ready products, often acquired as stand-alone businesses through a venture capitalist or business incubator, are more expensive and narrow one's choices, but they can be launched quickly and with less risk. Between these two approaches lies a third, facilitated by the "innovation capitalist." This new kind of intermediary provides client companies with access to a broad range of innovative product or technology ideas that are nearly market ready, thereby mitigating early-stage risks and lowering the time to market without significantly increasing acquisition costs. The authors compare the advantages and disadvantages of using intermediaries associated with the three approaches and provide a checklist of factors to consider when placing your company on the external sourcing continuum. If you've been oriented toward one end of the continuum or the other, you can increase your options and your flexibility by expanding into the middle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-118+142
JournalHarvard business review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

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