August 4, 2010

End of 60 hours of OI, UI (& CI)

#OUI2010 is over, and with it the annual gathering of user innovation, open innovation and a few cumulative innovation scholars.

In the final day, the conference host and founder Eric von Hippel announced that next year’s conference will be at Vienna University (, hosted by Nik Franke and Christopher Lettl and their Institut für Entrepreneurship und Innovation. (Nik says that due to the WU academic calendar, it is likely to be July 2011). Eric disclaimed more than symbolic leadership:
This conference is not run by me, but has village elders like Nik Franke and Christopher Lettl.
We also ended the conference with a mug that proclaims “I Presented Brilliantly At 8th Annual International Workshop.” The most unusual thing was the reference to the “Open and User Innovation Society,” complete with a logo. On Monday, I asked co-organizer Mako Hill, who didn’t know much and didn’t know that there was never previously a “society”. On Wednesday, I meant to ask Eric or others about this seeming shift, but I didn’t get a chance.

This was an unusual conference for me, the first effort that I tried to tweet in realtime. With more than 120 two-minute talks (half of them ads for longer sessions, half the entire talk) it was impossible to post an update for each and every one. Still, I had people joke that “before I could figure out what the talk was about, you were already tweeting it.” (Maha Shaikh of LSE lagged on Monday, but on Tuesday and Wednesday nearly matched me tweet for tweet).

It remains mostly a user innovation conference. Looking at the 124 papers on the program:
  • There were 8 papers in the “open innovation” sessions and another 5 that mention “open innovation” in their title, a total of about 10%.
  • Only 2 papers about cumulative innovation — one explicitly (Peter Meyer’s latest paper on early airplanes) and one implicitly about cumulative innovation and user entrepreneurship (Yu Xin on mountain bikes).
  • Not enough on user entrepreneurship, with only 4 official papers. In addition, Emmanuelle Fauchart and Marc Gruber identified user entrepreneurs within all nascent entrepreneurs, although “Schumpeterians” have become “Darwinians” in the latest telling.
  • Lead Users were officially only 5 papers although many of the ideas were present in other papers.
  • Communities remain very important — officially 30 (one-fourth) of the total, although some “firms and users” papers were also related to communities.
  • Open Source also remains important, with 10 papers in the official section and a total of 12 overall.
One of those 12 open source presentations was mine — asking how what we know about creating successful (sponsored or autonomous) open source projects could be used to develop a viable open source community for primary and secondary education. I hope to post more later.

Democratizing InnovationOverall, at the conference Eric used the conference to continue the mission he started with Democratizing Innovation, to change public policy (as well as public perceptions) to shift power away from producers towards users. Judging from the papers, not everyone shared this goal, which suggests that OUI has become a “big tent” that subsumes a wide range of research on distributed innovation.

At this point in my career, I strongly prefer focused workshops and small conferences to the zoos that the general conferences have become. I am grateful for the chance to participate in OUI for the past three years, and to be welcomed by the community as one of their own, despite being more of an OI person than a UI person (particularly on policy issues).

Photo by Marcel Bogers, during our post-OUI2010 meeting to work on our O/U/CI papers.

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