Avoiding innovation at the extremes

Quite a neat article on ‘Open Innovation’ in the Summer 2008 edition of the Design Council magazine. The author, Jeff Weedman of Procter and Gamble, takes a canter through what open innovation has done for businesses.

He cites Julian Birkinshaw of the London Business School who says there is a spectrum of innovation, with open innovation at one end and closed innovation at the other. Every business, says Birkinshaw, must place itself somewhere on that spectrum but not, he warns, at either extreme.

This raises the important question: many businesses and, indeed, organisations and institutions aren’t on that ‘innovation spectrum’, so how do they take that step?

The quote also serves to underline an important point about practising innovation. The point is that a business, once on the spectrum, will then need to find a locus at which it is most effective. This position will have to change over time, and businesses must regard regular reviews of their innovation strategies as essential This is not a light undertaking and businesses will naturally deal with this requirement with varying degrees of success.

I regularly talk to my clients (in public, private and civic sectors) about their approach to using digital media to facilitate, source and communicate innovation. The pictures on individual and collective levels are revealing and I’m hoping to persuade some of them to let me produce case studies I can talk about here.

Thoughts on how to do so, or about open innovation generally, would be much appreciated.

3 thoughts on “Avoiding innovation at the extremes

  1. Ross, I think your idea to encourage organisations (public/private) to use digital media as a means of encouraging open innovation is a really good one. The Department for Innovation, University and Skills recent white paper (http://dius.dialoguebydesign.net/rp/ScienceInnovation_web.pdf)
    seeks to encourage open innovation. In fact, we are also investigating how we can use existing online communities to work with us to design the implementation of part of the white paper. This open and transparent process is innovative in itself, as it is the first time a government department has approached online engagement with existing groups in this way.

    Another example of open innovation can be found in the private sector in the US. Hewlett-Packard are experimenting with the use of “Labs” to create partnerships between universities and venture capital firms as a means of stimulating creative and competitive bids for R&D funding. These partnerships result in bids that include both a business plan and a grant proposal. A review board then approves these ideas and monitors progress. Prith Banerjee, director of HP’s research labs, seems to be on to something. Visit (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/08_17/b4081072888929.htm?campaign_id=rss_tech) for the full article.

    It appears that the power of open innovation is upon us….

  2. The rural community is also doing its best to stay well ahead of the town and capitals like London-centric folks in this space. Where people and place cannot be easily brought together because of carbon footprint, the price of fuel etc..it is all the more important to share and innovate.

    All the thinking and design is happening behind this log in page


    While some of the outputs of the dius work will be of value, I still think that the communities that do it for their users are grown from within. If dius did not exist, would people be doing what it is doing anyway ? Or is the dius work happening because the government is funding it ?

    Now, if dius gave away the whole process to the community, and merely acted as an observer, then it might be a community I would wish to join. At the moment, it is one to observe, but I am not sure it is a true co-operative movement that will encourage participation and innovation in the optimum manner possible

  3. I agree that historically central government has adopted a formal approach to involving citizens in the development of policies, on which we can improve. The increase in the use of the internet provides organisations, government and individuals many more opportunities to interact and form relationships which we should take up. And collaborating with online communities can help co-produce innovative new policies and initiatives. We in DIUS have been trying to:
    (a) identify community-led groups which we could work with;
    (b) work collaboratively with these communities to share knowledge, experiences in order to stimulate and drive innovation; and
    (c) be open and transparent about our approach and to provide feed back at every stage of the process.

    If you have any ideas about how DIUS could achieve these goals we would like to hear from you.

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