March 2, 2015

Themes for the practice of open innovation

Like my OI collaborators Henry Chesbrough & Wim Vanhaverbeke, I get a lot of emails (and receive many Google News updates) on businesses and consultants touting some claimed breakthrough on open innovation. Normally they end up in the bitbucket.

This morning I got an email from consultant Cheryl Perkins, based on the CoDev2015 conference she hosted last week month in Arizona. I first met Cheryl in 2007 — when I was hired to train Kimberly-Clark execs on open innovation — and in 2012 Cheryl invited me to present my research at CoDev2012 when it was in San Diego. She seems to consistently attracts a solid group of attendees at the CoDev conferences, which today are co-sponsored by the Management Roundtable.

However, none of those reasons are why I’m mentioning Cheryl or the conference on this blog. Instead, I think her blog posting from the conference (emailed to 1000s of her closest friends) nicely summarizes important issues today for the practice of open innovation:
[At CoDev2015] We learned:
Strategy: It is critical to have a clear ‘need’ definition process, with a prioritized list of scout able needs aligned to business strategy. Needs must be written for both confidential and non-confidential use.
Culture: Leverage early ‘wins’ to drive change. Involve cross functional perspectives early on. Be sure to include HR, Legal and Procurement. Use a trial and scale-up approach to build capabilities. Communicate often, both internally and externally.
Processes and Tools: Tools and processes are enablers, not an end in themselves. Implement a flexible process from need identification into your stage-gate development process. Establish market potential and feasibility assessment criteria, approval & funding checkpoints, and pathways for dialog. Monitor and adapt as needed.
Ecosystems: Having “know-who” is far more effective than just having “know-how,” and new channels yield new solutions. But that’s not enough. Finding and implementing new solutions requires thoughtful planning, communication and willingness to take risks. Collaborative networks are more dynamic and interconnected than traditional hub & spoke structures.
In many ways, this is strikingly similar to the research agenda that has emerged from recent academic research, including in the most recent Chesbrough, Vanhaverbeke & West book.

For example, strategy is one of the major themes of existing research identified by Chesbrough & Bogers (2014) in chapter 1 of New Frontiers in Open Innovation. The importance of measuring the benefits of OI for firm success was a major topic of both by West & Bogers (2014) and West, Salter, Vanhaverbeke & Chesbrough (2014), and obviously is a crucial under-developed area in the OI literature.

As West & Bogers (2014) note, culture is one of several mediators within organizations that determines whether externally sourced innovations will produce useful outcomes for the firms. The most commonly studied topic is “not invented here” — see Antons & Piller (forthcoming) for the first major lit review — but there’s more to cultural factors in OI efficacy beyond NIH.

Again, Chesbrough & Bogers (2014) noted the importance of research on tools to understand how OI is actually implemented and used. There’s a lot of research on tools for innovation contests, but frankly the user innovation literature (such as Piller and Walcher 2006) is much further developed than OI is here.

Finally, the summary articles for both of our OI projects last year — the concluding book chapter (Vanhaverbeke et al 2014) and the intro chapter to the Research Policy special issue (West et al, 2014) — noted the importance of ecosystems as both a research topic and firm strategy in open innovation. Briefly discussed in Vanhaverbeke & Cloodt (2006), Rohrbeck et al (2009) provided one of the first empirical studies to explicitly link ecosystems and open innovation. Chapter 4 of New Frontiers (West, 2014) provides an up-to-date summary of how ecosystems relate to platforms, communities and other network forms of open innovation collaboration.

Overall, I find this encouraging. While the CoDev managers have specific concerns that should be investigated by academics, nonetheless it appears the two audiences have overlapping (if not fully congruent) questions about improving our understanding of open innovation. I think that’s a testimony to the practical (and phenomenological) basis of Chesbrough’s original Open Innovation book, and the efforts of key academics (particularly Chesbrough, Vanhaverbeke and Piller) to keep the field in touch with and relevant for managerial practice.


Antons, David and Frank Piller (forthcoming), “Opening the Black Box of ‘Not-Invented-Here’: Attitudes, Decision Biases, and Behavioral Consequences,“ Academy of Management Perspectives, DOI: 10.5465/amp.2013.0091

Chesbrough, Henry and Marcel Bogers (2014). “Explicating Open Innovation: Clarifying an Emerging Paradigm for Understanding Innovation.” In Henry Chesbrough, Wim Vanhaverbeke and Joel West (Eds.), New Frontiers in Open Innovation, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 3-28. DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199682461.003.0001

Piller, Frank T., and Dominik Walcher. (2006) "Toolkits for idea competitions: a novel method to integrate users in new product development." R&D Management 36 (3): 307-318. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9310.2006.00432.x

Rohrbeck, René, Katharina Hölzle, and Hans Georg Gemünden (2009) "Opening up for competitive advantage–How Deutsche Telekom creates an open innovation ecosystem." R&D Management 39, (4): 420-430. DOI 10.1111/j.1467-9310.2009.00568.x

Vanhaverbeke, Wim and Myriam Cloodt (2006) “Open Innovation in Value Networks,” in Henry Chesbrough, Wim Vanhaverbeke, and Joel West, eds., Open Innovation: Researching a New Paradigm. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 258-281.

Vanhaverbeke, Wim, Henry Chesbrough and Joel West (2014). “Surfing the New Wave of Open Innovation Research.” In Henry Chesbrough, Wim Vanhaverbeke and Joel West (Eds.), New Frontiers in Open Innovation, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 281-294. DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199682461.003.0015

West, Joel, “Challenges of Funding Open Innovation Platforms: Lessons From Symbian Ltd.,” in Henry Chesbrough, Wim Vanhaverbeke and Joel West, eds., New Frontiers in Open Innovation, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014, pp. 71-93. DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199682461.003.0004

West, Joel and Marcel Bogers (2014). “Leveraging External Sources of Innovation: A Review of Research on Open Innovation,” Journal of Product Innovation Management 31 (4): 814-831. DOI: 10.1111/jpim.12125

West, Joel, Ammon Salter, Wim Vanhaverbeke, Henry Chesbrough (2014). “Open innovation: The next decade,” Research Policy 43 (5): 805-811. DOI: 10.1016/j.respol.2014.03.001

December 6, 2014

The Final Day of WOIC 2014

Friday brought the second and final day of the World Open Innovation Conference in Napa. To me, the day seemed every bit as successful as the first — but perhaps that was just being able (as were other organizers) to unwind at the end of the day. By the end of the day, I was slightly dazed and confused, trying to juggle various hats: organizer, plenary presenter, tweeter (in a futile attempt to out-do Piller and Bogers), blogger and photographer.

To the latter point, my conference pictures are finally posted to Google’s Picasa. I wasted nearly an hour trying to get the (original and latest) client app to work — it’s not clear if it failed due to bugs in the software or in the user design. I finally gave up and created an album of some 90 photos using the web client.

Nonaka’s Rare Appearance
We were thrilled to be joined by Ikujiro Nonaka (author of the seminal knowledge creation research), and his willingness to attend both days of the conference. Given his age (79) and health, we were uncertain to the last minute whether or not he could make it.

Not surprisingly, he quoted Drucker and other work — in addition to his own 2011 HBR article — on the importance of knowledge for the success of modern firms. He also provided numerous examples of Japanese (and one Chinese) companies that empowered workers to enable their creativity and knowledge creation abilities.

Perhaps his most quoted example (at least on Friday) was the waigaya (open dialog) offsite process used by Honda. It required a “good location, good hotel, good food and good spa.” It seems to be a common team-building formula — except that (beyond Finland) the spa/sauna element is rarely used.

Showcase Presenters
Three papers were singled out by the program committee for special visibility due to the quality of their initial submission. (Some papers got much better when the final paper was submitted, but these papers had the most polished abstracts at the original deadline).

WIth “The Architecture of Evaluation Processes in Open Innovation Settings,” Christoph Hienerth discussed the difficulty of firms using crowds to evaluate the quality of inbound innovations. In particular, he outlined the tradeoffs between two forms of evaluation:
  • Validity by expertise: the feedback must come from those with specific skills
  • Validity by numbers: no skill is required, so the more feedback the better
Nicolette Lakemond presented “The Role of Knowledge Governance in Open Innovation,” by which firms must set different approaches to govern knowledge flows in support of their OI strategies. They identify two forms of governance — authority and consensus — and measure the impact of such efforts on innovation by manufacturing firms in Sweden, Finland and Italy.

The final showcase paper was presented by Jonathan Sims. Entitled “Inbound, Outbound and Coupled Open Innovation Practices in a Community Setting,” he examined the (non pecuniary) inbound and outbound flows by (mostly) small firms who are member of the Drupal open source community. He got the best laugh of the session with his slide labelled “Obligatory Strategy 2x2”.

Jonathan Sims with his obligatory 2x2
NASA Session is Out of this World
An unexpected surprise for attendees was the session on open innovation strategies at NASA. While only one of the projects was of cosmic significance — the intergalactic insights of the Spitzer space telescope — the session provided an in-depth understand of what happens at NASA (beyond the tournaments studied by Karim Lakhani).

Two of the presentations were qualitative studies by NYU Stern assistant professors: Hila Lifshitz-Assaf (a graduate of HBS) and Renee Rottner (a fellow UCI graduate). The third was given by Jeffrey Davis, director of the Human Health and Performance Center (formerly Space Life Science Directorate) at NASA.

Hila looked at what happened within NASA after the organization obtained ideas from its various contests. Among other things, she addressed two key gaps in the open innovation literature: a lack of research on the individual level impact on OI, and a need for research on how inbound external innovations are integrated once they’ve been discovered.

Renee Rottner explains how (boundary) shift happens.
Renee presented her study of 30 year odyssey that resulted in the 2003 launch of the Spitzer telescope. He study brings to OI the boundary spanners — something that was long overdue, but something I despaired of seeing done, given how little has been done recently. She had the best graphic of the day: showing what happens to a boundary spanning artifact (a bridge) when the boundary (a river) shifts.

Finally, Jeff explained the process by which the life science directorate at NASA recast its innovation strategies to make greater use of external knowledge. (As in many cases, the impetus was a reduction of funding). Having taken the Innocentive case under Karim, it was natural to involve Harvard in helping the directorate rework its strategies. It turns out that these efforts pioneered processes and structures that later were used to support inbound innovation activities elsewhere in NASA.

Other Events
Friday’s opening plenary ended with an the announcement by Fujitsu.: the Japanese computer company will be sponsoring a mobile TechShop trailer that will take the “maker” movement and STEM education to K-12 schools in California and the rest of the US.

Later Friday morning, Frank Piller organized brainstorming sessions where the attendees sought to address problems by three organizations: Saudi Aramco, the European Investment Bank and Natura Cosmetics (of Brazil). Given the cost of participating was just a registration for a company presenter, it seemed strange that no California companies wanted to participate — but perhaps this is related to the hubris of Silicon Valley.

Frank Piller presenting corporate problem challenges
As with Thursday, we had tremendous energy from the networking and discussions during lunch.

The Importance of Quality Feedback
Perhaps my enthusiasm at the end was because in the final two paper sessions Friday we presented two of our early stage papers (one by a co-author). As an author, I experienced first-hand the high quality of engagement and feedback from an obviously highly informed audience. Numerous people during (and afterwards) offered very helpful insights on our presentations: their investment of 20 minutes to listen to the talk and 5-10 minutes to follow up will pay us major dividends on both papers.

In principle, conference papers offer four benefits to the authors:
  • A line on the vita
  • The discipline of organizing your thoughts into a 10-15 minute presentation in oral form.
  • Signaling your interests and capabilities (usually to other academics, sometimes to the real world)
  • Getting feedback on your ideas
From 20 years of academic presentations, feedback seems to be a matter of fit between the audience and the author — both quantity (number who fit) and quality (how well they fit, and how well they know your literature).

This high quality feedback is something we saw at the 2012 London conference — which had 60 attendees (all in plenary) instead of 120. I’ve also enjoyed it at various platforms conferences over the years, because we have pretty a small niche and community. I’ve been less successful at the UOI conference, mainly because of the partial overlap between my OI work and von Hippel’s UI world; from what I’ve seen, the mainstream UI researchers get great feedback (unless their audience is in a competing session).

At the Academy, we can find this feedback at a pre-arranged presenter symposia — where both the panel and the audience are united by interest in a common topic — such as the communities and ecosystem panels at AOM this year. But it’s something I’ve rarely seen at Academy paper sessions, with their hodgepodge grouping in the name of fairness.

Frank Piller presented an amusing discussion of how open innovation has graduated from the pre-paradigmatic stage, and now needs to move on to being (in effect) Kuhnian normal science. With his permission, I am posting his slides to SlideShare.

While we await feedback (actual data) from our attendees, the general impression was that attendees really enjoyed the conference. When Henry Chesbrough asked how many plan to come back, almost every hand in the room went up. (We did have a few attendees who had to leave early).
Henry Chesbrough surveying participants on Friday afternoon.
The conference wouldn’t have happened without the work of the co-chairs — Chesbrough, Frank Piller, Chris Tucci (and yours truly). It also dependent on the staff and other resources of Chesbrough’s innovation center at Berkeley (the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation), including key staffers — Anita Stephens, Sohyeong Kim and Solomon Darwin.

I am personally confident that the next WOIC will be even more successful. Stay tuned for more details as we have them.

December 5, 2014

WOIC: Day 1

On Thursday, open innovation scholars enjoyed a very exuberant 1st day at the 1st annual World Open Innovation Conference in Napa.

As the day began, the audience received their own copy of the brand new — fresh off the pressesNew Frontiers in Open Innovation. (An $81 value!)

Chesbrough Keynote
The conference opened with Henry Chesbrough , summarizing the evolution of the OI concept from his 2003 book. He noted that when the book came out in April 2003, a google of "open innovation” produced 200 hits; exactly 10 years later, it was 450 million.

Henry Chesbrough listing 8 new aspects of
open innovation from Chesbrough (2006)
He also addressed some of the criticism of OI, including the "old wine in new bottles" one. One of his most photographed slides listed the 8 points of how OI is different from his (oft-cited) Chapter 1 of the 2006 book.

He offered 6 suggested areas for future research
  1. Clarity of definitions.
  2. Microfoundations
  3. Failure cases and boundary conditions — a call Henry has made for years, and continues to make every year at the ESADE PhD seminar
  4. Inside out (inbound) mode: too much of the front end, not enough of the back end (as Marcel Bogers and I documented in our 2014 JPIM article)
  5. Outside in (outbound) mode — which is both less practiced and (as documented in Bogers & West 2014) less studied.
  6. Rigorous evidence of performance impacts, which to date has included the Du et al paper from the 2014 special issue and the many CIS papers starting with the oft-cited Laursen & Salter (2006)
David Teece
Chesbrough next introduced David Teece, author of two seminal articles related to innovation strategy: Teece (1986) — profiting from innovation — and Teece et al (1997) — dynamic capabilities.

David Teece
He discussed how open innovation relates to dynamic capabilities. Both are in contrast to the Porter IO-derived model of resource control where successful firms try to have everything inside the boundaries of the firm. Today, firms need to have dynamic capabilities to combat the “red queen effect” — a concept of Lewis Carroll which Wikipedia helpfully notes is
"Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"
He sees OI as tied to the sensing, seizing and transforming framework of dynamic capabilities.

Open Oenology
Sohyeong Kim (a postdoc at Berkeley with Henry) led a session on “open oenology,” where the audience broke into groups to brainstorm solutions to improve the future revenue streams of the wine industry. Some of the ideas were a little wacky — vitamin-infused wine — but it seemed as though people were having fun coming up with innovative ideas.

A Research Agenda
I closed the plenary with a brief talk entitled “Open Innovation: A Research Agenda”. After recounting the (somewhat influential) research agenda that concluded our 2006 book, I adapted my blog post from last month to offer 6 areas of future research:
  1. Levels of Analysis beyond the two-firm dyad — as with the ecosystem session
  2. More on integrating inbound OI (from West & Bogers 2014)
  3. Better measurement — well evidenced here at the conference
  4. Tie to extant theory — covered by a session in the early afternoon (“Determinants of Open Innovation”)
  5. Nonpecuniary motivations — inspired by Dahlander & Gann (2010), but currently being pushed by Alberto Di Minin
  6. Role of Appropriability — something I argued for in my 2006 chapter and was well represented in both the 2014 special issue and Thursday’s session on IP & Appropriability
As promised, the slides have been uploaded to SlideShare.

After that plenary, we had a great session of 11 posters over wine (and a little bit of beer). The discussions seemed quite lively — even before the attendees had earned their drink tickets by providing feedback — but the discussion level rose by 5-6 decibels after everyone had a drink in their hand.
Adrian Kovacs summarizes his paper during the poster session  
I am hoping to upload all the photos (as I did at the London 2012 conference), but right now the Picasa client is not cooperating so I will need to spend more time figuring out a workaround to Google’s attempts at lock-in.

November 25, 2014

All-star lineup for 1st World Open Innovation Conference

The schedule for the 1st World Open Innovation Conference has now been posted to the conference website. The conference will be held December 4-5 in Napa Valley, California. Conference host Henry Chesbrough has issued a press release announcing the conference program, which concludes:
“No other innovation conference has gathered so much talent from both industry and academia at the same time in the same place,” Chesbrough said.
On the academic side, the conference features keynotes by David Teece (who wrote the intro to our 2006 book) and Ikujiro Nonaka (who wrote the intro to our 2014 book). There will be 43 papers across 14 sessions, plus 12 posters over wine before the Thursday night dinner. Three of the 43 papers were singled out for showcase presentation because they had the strongest reviews of all submissions:
  • Christoph Hienerth and Frederik Riar: The Architecture of Evaluation Processes in Open Innovation Settings
  • Nicolette Lakemond, Lars Bengtsson, Keld Laursen and Fredrik Tell: The Role of Knowledge Governance in Open Innovation
  • Jonathan Sims: Inbound, Outbound and Coupled Open Innovation Practices in a Community Setting 
Based on their initial reviews, these papers (and nine others) are also invited to participate in the ICC special section.

One important difference from most innovation conferences is the involvement of industry professionals throughout the conference. This includes both keynote sessions, a solution-seeking workshop, a session on industry OI experiences, and a session on OI in the wine industry.

After worrying if we could fill the Silverado Resort, the conference is sold out — with 120 attendees (the room capacity) and a waiting list of would-be attendees being turned away. Given the interest, I think it's safe to say there will be other WOIC conferences in the future.

On behalf of the conference chairs — Chris Tucci, Frank Piller, Henry Chesbrough and Joel West — we look forward to welcoming these 100+ attendees to California and an intense (and hopefully enjoyable) forum for discussing open innovation.

Update Nov 26: Upload and link the revised program released Wednesday.

October 27, 2014

Open Innovation: A 2014 Research Agenda

One of the main goals of the Chesbrough/Vanhaverbeke/West 2006 book was to shape the research agenda of the open innovation. Our final chapter was immodestly entitled “Open innovation: a research agenda” (West, Vanhaverbeke and Chesbrough, 2006). According to Google it has 189 cites — not the most influential chapter in the book (which is Chesbrough, 2006) — nor as well cited as key lit reviews (e.g. Dahlander & Gann, 2010), but still not bad for a book chapter.

This year, there have been several other articles that claim to summarize the current literature and suggest topics for future research. Yes, some of these are my articles, but I think together I think they provide the best summary of OI research opportunities today.

Since I'm trying to write a short encyclopedia article on open innovation — and want to make it different from my 2011 article — it seemed a good time to review what’s been written recently. It helps that several of these articles are associated with large new batches of OI research (i.e. the June 2014 special issue of Research Policy and the forthcoming New Frontiers in Open Innovation), and thus are directly tied to some of the latest work.

Journal of Product Innovation Management (West and Bogers, 2014)

This article was previously summarized on this blog. With the benefit of time, the two things that seems most often mentioned from this article are:
  • The four stage model (Figure 1 and most of the text) on how firms utilize external innovation, and the fact that we need more research on what happens when these innovations come into firms and are brought to market
  • The fact that almost all OI research is about the inbound process, with very little about the outbound process (Figure 2).

Chapter 1 of New Frontiers in Open Innovation (Chesbrough & Bogers, 2014)

In Table 1.3, Chesbrough and Bogers look at the 20 most cited articles on OI, and indicate whether they relate to one of the following 7 topics:
  • Strategy
  • Product development
  • Innovation process
  • Toolkits/users
  • Limits/risks/costs
  • University
  • Environmental context
Just for fun, in Figure 1.3 they offer a word cloud form the abstracts of nearly 1,000 articles, chapters and proceedings papers taken from SSCI for 2003-2012.

Consistent with a renewed interest in non-pecuniary OI (see below), page 17 offers the new canonical Chesbrough definition of what open innovation is, replacing earlier definitions:
we define open innovation as a distributed innovation process based on purposively managed knowledge flows across organizational boundaries, using pecuniary and non-pecuniary mechanisms in line with the organization’s business model.
Research Policy (West, Salter, Vanhaverbeke & Chesbrough, 2014)

This is the introductory article for the nine peer-reviewed articles of the special issue. The discussion of trends was first drafted by Salter and West (utilizing time spent over breakfast in Bath a year ago).

The main themes are summarized by a quote from page 807 of the article (emphasis added):
The papers in this SI reflect three emerging themes in open innovation research. The first is newer and better approaches to measuring open innovation. The second is a more sophisticated (and nuanced) understanding of the role of appropriability in enabling open innovation. The third comprises efforts to more closely integrate open innovation with established theories of management and economics. Here we review these three themes, and three others that (while not represented in the special issue) will also shape the conception of open innovation in its second decade: coupled innovation, nonpecuniary motivations and multi-level analysis.
The measurement issue seems pretty self explanatory: it’s important trend but one that is both expected and easily understood for a new body of work. The opening article of the entire special issue by Dahlander and Piezunka (2014) — both the first article finished and one of the strongest throughout the process — looks at external knowledge sourcing with a massive database that circumvents previous sampling bias problems.

Appropriability is a longstanding topic in OI, going back to the 2006 book (West, 2006) if not before; the special issue includes not only the expected article by Henkel and colleagues (2014) on the topic, but a new article by the dynamic duo of OI econometrics, Laursen & Salter (2014).

The questions of established theories and levels of analysis come up again, so I’ll discuss them separately below. The topic of coupled OI is near and dear to my heart — my major research emphasis today — but because I talked about it a few months ago (in the context of the Piller and West 2014 book chapter), I’ll save that for another time.

The nonpecuniary motivations is a helpful extension that Dahlander & Gann (2010) used to distinguish forms of OI that are motivated by profit (or greed) and those that are not. They (looking back) summarize how research has considered the motivations of organizational actors for a given knowledge flow. In the new book Chesbrough & Di Minin (2014) extend this to its logical conclusion: how does OI apply to government and other non-profit organizations? Their discussion of “open social innovation” fills an important gap in OI research.

Chapter 15 of New Frontiers in Open Innovation (Vanhaverbeke et al, 2014a)

The (Vanhaverbeke-led) final chapter of the book provides a separate (but overlapping) classification of OI research trends. For clarity, I disassemble the paragraph of prose into numbered bullet points:
  1. we discuss the need to connect (and integrate) open innovation research into mainstream management theories.
  2. we look for possible extensions of open innovation research into new application fields, such as SMEs, low-tech firms, and non-profit organizations. Open innovation also has several implications for public policy and multinational companies.
  3. we elaborate on the need to examine open innovation at different levels of analysis.
  4. we identify the need to develop frameworks to understand how companies must change internally to successfully apply open innovation.
  5. we highlight how open innovation has implications for functions beyond R&D that have not traditionally been involved in implementing open innovation: such as HRM, PR, and legal.
The first and third items are discussed below. The second was a natural theme for the book and the summary, since there was a conscious effort to solicit chapters about SMEs, MNCs and nonprofits.

The issue of organizational change needed to support open innovation is a longstanding puzzle in OI research. It’s a topic most closely associate with the various studies of Tim Minshall and Letizia Mortara of the University of Cambridge (and UK Innovation Research Centre), who penned an update on their research (Mortara & Minshall, 2014) for the book.

Finally, the question of OI outside R&D was a real head-scratcher for me when Vanhaverbeke first suggested it. However, in straining to find enough articles to mention in this section, he convinced me this is a real gap — and thus an opportunity —for OI researchers.

Levels of Analysis

Extending West et al (2006), Chesbrough & Bogers (2014) suggest five levels of analysis:
  • Individual/Group
  • Firm/Organization
  • Network
  • Industry/Sector
  • National/Institutional
(Unfortunately, I didn’t catch that this was an obsolete list, since for more than five years we’ve known that community is an important level of analysis distinct from networks and industries).

More recently, the work of Vanhaverbeke not only points to the importance of understanding differences within a firm on how the firm uses open innovation, but identified the level of the R&D project as an important way to operationalize that variation. They did a series of studies (Du et al 2014; Vanhaverbeke et al 2014b) in a large “European” multinational.

So, I believe the complete list would be
  • Individual/Group
  • Project
  • Firm/Organization
  • Network/Ecosystem
  • Community
  • Industry/Sector
  • National/Supranational
Since institutions can exist at many levels, my own impression is that they don’t count as a separate level of analysis: most of what we call “institutions” govern at the industry or national level, with some institutionalized governance acting upon networks and communities.

Linking OI to Mainstream Theories

Both of the summary articles (West, Salter, Vanhaverbeke & Chesbrough, 2014; Vanhaverbeke, Chesbrough, West, 2014) note the importance of linking OI to mainstream theories. Although I’m a co-author on both articles, it’s fair to say that the discussions on this trend more closely match the view of Salter and Vanhaverbeke, respectively.

Here’s how the first summary article put it:
Although the original Open Innovation book drew on deep currents of research in the broader traditions of management and economics, it did not itself seek to directly align to existing under- pinning theories in these fields. Over the past 10 years, researchers have sought to find mapping of concepts of open innovation to more general theories about the nature of the firm and its boundaries (Vanhaverbeke and Cloodt, 2014).
concluding with a nod to a think piece (in New Frontiers) that links OI to theories of the firm. It then points to three articles in the special issue: one on diversification via OI (Colombo et al, 2014), one a model of property rights and OI (Gambardella & Panico, 2014), and one that applies the level of the project to classify OI (Felin & Zenger, 2014).

The second summary article (Vanhaverbeke et al, 2014a) makes a similar point
The open innovation literature originated with reflections on observations about changing innovation management practices in companies (Chesbrough, 2003a, 2006a). Literature about open innovation has grown rapidly, and there is a growing need to relate or integrate it into existing innovation management research.
Other than the aforementioned Vanhaverbeke and Cloodt (2014), I don’t think anyone has attempted to link OI to the “traditions,” but clearly in both articles (and other recent articles) there have been efforts to link and contrast to specific areas of management research.


To me, the flurry of recent work demonstrates two things about open innovation. First, OI remains an active and vibrant area of research. Second, it is one that is far more mature and established than it was when we completed our first academic book in 2006, as reflected by trends such as measurement and increasing linkages to established theory in management and economics.

I'm hoping this posting will help new (and existing) OI researchers come up with ideas for future research opportunities. However, it’s just a blog posting: please see the original articles for more specifics.


Chesbrough, Henry (2006). “Open Innovation: A New Paradigm for Understanding Industrial Innovation,” in Henry Chesbrough, Wim Vanhaverbeke, and Joel West (Eds.), Open Innovation: Researching a New Paradigm, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1-12.

Chesbrough, Henry and Marcel Bogers (2014). “Explicating Open Innovation: Clarifying an Emerging Paradigm for Understanding Innovation.” In Henry Chesbrough, Wim Vanhaverbeke and Joel West (Eds.), New Frontiers in Open Innovation, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 3-28.

Chesbrough, Henry and Alberto Di Minin (2014). “Open Social Innovation.” In Henry Chesbrough, Wim Vanhaverbeke and Joel West (Eds.), New Frontiers in Open Innovation, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 169-188.

Colombo, Massimo G., Evila Piva & Cristina Rossi-Lamastra (2014). “Open innovation and within-industry diversification in small and medium enterprises: The case of open source software firms,” Research Policy 43 (5): 891-902. DOI: 10.1016/j.respol.2013.08.015

Dahlander, Linus, and Gann, David M. (2010). “How open is innovation?” Research Policy 39 (6): 699-709. DOI: 10.1016/j.respol.2010.01.013

Dahlander, Linus & Henning Piezunka (2014). “Open to suggestions: How organizations elicit suggestions through proactive and reactive attention,” Research Policy 43 (5): 812-827. DOI: 10.1016/j.respol.2013.06.006

Du, Jingshu, Bart Leten & Wim Vanhaverbeke (2014). “Does Open Innovation Improve the Performance of R&D Projects?” Research Policy 43 (5): 828-840, DOI: 10.1016/j.respol.2013.12.008

Felin, Teppo & Todd R. Zenger (2014). “Closed or open innovation? Problem solving and the governance choice,” Research Policy 43 (5): 914-925, DOI: 10.1016/j.respol.2013.09.006

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