At OUI 2009 earlier this month in Harburg, I presented my own research in the open innovation track. It was an extension of the research that I presented at EURAM 2007, UOI 2008 and AOM 2008 that contrasts cumulative, open and user innovation.
This year’s presentation reflected my subsequent investigation on the similarities and differences of these three bodies of work, joined by my new co-author Marcel Bogers (now of U. Southern Denmark). I first met Marcel in 2007 when he was a PhD student (under Chris Tucci) at EPFL, where he did his dissertation on user innovation. Marcel organized the excellent AOM workshop last year on open and user innovation, and we are finding that the contrasting perspectives were very helpful in making sense of these overlapping but distinct literatures.
One of the things that we noticed was that the various literatures (and studies of related topics) have varying definitions of “innovation.” We temporarily agreed to defer this question but probably will have to come back and address it more precisely before we are done. The definition of success was a little easier, since user innovation is clearly about the creation of innovations, cumulative innovation is about technological progress, while open innovation is firmly about profit.
All three literatures assumed that knowledge is widely dispersed, but differ in other areas. Cumulative innovation (at least in the Nuvolari and Scotchmer sense) is like open innovation in assuming a profit motive, while much (if not most) of the user innovation literature is about a self-interested utility motive. Conversely, open innovation largely depends on strong IPR while user and cumulative innovation assumes (or argues for) weaker IPR.
One of the ways the literatures differ is on their assumptions about the sources and flows of knowledge (whether that knowledge is disseminated in raw form or encapsulated in products or services). We tried to capture that with this value network diagram below:
Marcel and I do believe these three literature do have a lot in common and perhaps deserve a new term to represent the superset. (At OUI 2009, Nikolaus Franke suggested “distributed innovation” which seems as good as any.) Our thinking right now is at a preliminary stage, but as we flesh this out over the next few months, we hope to have more to share at the end of the summer.