December 31, 2011

What we know about inbound open innovation

Even by my standards, 2011 was a well-travelled year as I flew to conferences in Pittsburgh, Vienna, Johannesburg, San Antonio, Augsburg and San Francisco. (Trips to San Francisco and Berkeley wouldn’t normally be road trips, except that this summer I moved to a new job at KGI in Southern California.)

In some of these cases, I was talking about solar energy, but most of the talks were about innovation openness. In Johannesburg, San Antonio and my visit to Berkeley’s Open Innovation Speaker Series, I was talking about “strategic openness,” my new work on how firms use selective openness to gain competitive advantage; more on this another time. At Stanford in March, I presented an updated version of the open innovation ecosystem paper I’m working on with David Wood.

However, of greatest interest to readers of this blog is the paper I presented in Pittsburgh (at Industry Studies), Vienna (at OUI 2011) and near San Francisco (at MCPC 2011) summarizing the research Marcel Bogers and I have done on inbound open innovation. (Marcel also presented our paper at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich.)

At MCPC, Frank Piller and Henry Chesbrough kindly gave me the opening slot on the research program, so I had a full half hour to talk about what we have learned over the past two years. The talk was very well received — perhaps because people were being polite, or perhaps because (like a business school professor) I roamed the hall to make sure people didn’t fall asleep. However, I’d like to think that it also provided a good overview for the academic (and industry) attendees of what we do and don’t know about open innovation.

The paper reviewed some 280 publications on open innovation published from 2003-2010. We found that researchers seemed to be more interested in how firms find external sources of innovation than what they do with them later (or whether these external innovations actually benefit the firm).

Among the few papers that we found that focused on the bottom line were those by Bruno Cassiman and Dries Fames (who also participated in an OI panel discussion during Academy in San Antonio.) I certainly don’t want to suggest that this is the only worthwhile topic for OI research going forward, if for no other reason than it’s not one where I’m likely to do the empirics. However, it does point to the need for researchers to step back and think about when (or how or if) the recent OI fad is actually helping firms be more successful.

The slides from MCPC are up on SlideShare, and a slightly older version of the paper (what we presented at OUI) is on SSRN. We hope to post a newer version of the paper next year (but not tomorrow).

MCPC photo courtesy Bruce Cook Photography.

December 16, 2011

CFP: User Innovation in RTM

The practitioner-oriented journal Research-Technology Management is soliciting articles for a special issue on user innovation.

Here are excerpts from the call for papers:
The focus of this special issue is users who innovate: how they come to innovate, how they share their innovations, how their innovations diffuse, who profits from them, and how increased user innovation is changing the corporate innovation landscape. User innovation is being spurred by the growth of Internet communities, small-scale fabrication labs, and more open paths to market; investment in user innovations may now rival that of corporate innovation.

RTM is looking for articles that explore the evolving landscape of user innovation and its implications for corporate management of innovation. Specifically we’re interested in exploring studies of user innovation, user communities, partnerships between users and corporations, the role of users in corporate innovation, and impediments to user innovation. The ideal submission will provide concrete examples to support theories about user innovation, community innovation, and corporate implications. Manuscripts that combine examples, theory, and recommendations are particularly sought. Successful submissions will offer readers practical information they can put to work immediately.

To be considered for the special issue, articles should be submitted to the Managing Editor via RTM’s Editorial Manager site at by March 15, 2012.
The recommended length of articles is 3,500 words.

November 17, 2011

Open innovation returns home

Today was the second day of #MCPC2011, more formally the 6th biennial Conference on Mass Customization, Personalization and Co-Creation.

Normally held in Germany or at MIT, this year marked its first appearance on the West Coast. The conference is being held in Burlingame, next to the San Francisco airport, and is hosted by the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation of UC Berkeley, just across San Francisco Bay.

The theme of MCPC 2011 is “Bridging Mass Customization and Open Innovation.” Not surprisingly, the director of the Garwood Center is Henry Chesbrough, father of open innovation, who is also co-chairing the conference with conference founder Frank Piller.

The day saw a combination of talks by consultants and industry practitioners about open innovation, co-creation, crowdsourcing and related topics. The end of the day brought a concluding talk by Chesbrough, reviewing both his earlier books and his most recent topic, open services innovation from the book of the same name.

He began with a review of the factors leading to the increased prevalence of open innovation
  • Labor mobility: instead of one employer, the average engineer has 9 employers
  • University research: government used to support most university research. However, “Even Berkeley professors can figure out that if now the money is coming from industry, I need to focus on research questions that industry is willing to fund.“ Stanford, “the second most respected university in California,” has John Hennessy as its president, a serial entrepreneur and current board director.
  • Increasing prevalence of venture capital. “Venture capitalists don’t pay for research; they only pay for development,” so the initial research (for such startup companies) must come from somewhere else.
As noted earlier, Chesbrough thinks services are an important area for open innovation, and not just because services are (by some measures) of greater economic impact that products. Certainly services are no longer an afterthought, as when (in Chesbrough’s days as a disk drive manager) customer support was just a cost center.

Instead, services can add value as part of an ongoing feedback process of service creation and refinement. (The slide he showed was similar to one he showed last year, as captured by Maha Shaikh):

The future is not just services, but a platform that integrates both products and services. As an example, Chesbrough cited semiconductor foundry TSMC, which recently announced its “open innovation platform.”

November 11, 2011

Open innovation: less fakes, more reality

Given the popularity of open innovation, it was inevitable that companies — and researchers — would seek to wrap themselves in the term to leverage its cachet to legitimate their otherwise unremarkable efforts.

One way that I’ve seen this is through a Google news watch on “open innovation” that lands in my inbox every night around midnight ET (9pm Pacific.) Every day there are 1-5 stories about companies (and increasingly the government) trumpeting their latest “open innovation” breakthrough. I am convinced that half the PR people (or execs sponsoring the underlying initiatives) couldn’t articulate a recognizable definition of open innovation.

In talking about this in conjunction with the creation of the Open Innovation Community, I found that Henry Chesbrough has a similar news watch. I’m concerned that faux open innovation will muddy the waters and confuse the market; also, from a research standpoint, a theory of everything is a theory of nothing. However, Henry is more inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps because he is a more optimistic person.

The issue came up earlier this year in a press interview. Orange Silicon Valley (a branch of the French mobile phone company) hired a former WSJ technology writer to prepare a 48-page report on the future of Silicon Valley. This included interviews with 10 Silicon Valley experts, including California’s second most famous open innovation researcher. Here is an excerpt:
Do you think the phrase is being overused?

We don’t have a term for it, but there is an Open Innovation equivalent of “greenwashing.” Greenwashing is where people wrap themselves in claims of environmental-friendliness, but don’t change their actual practices to make their products more marketable.

When I use Google to see how corporations use “Open Innovation,” I’d say only about a third of it is really legitimate; the rest of it is just people want a buzzword to make themselves seem more innovative and more trendy.

In many cases, when they appoint a VP for Open Innovation, there is an attitude change and they really are being more collaborative. At other times, it’s just a new name for something they’ve always done, and they’re just calling it something else.
I was thinking of a particular example three years ago when one of Silicon Valley’s most respected companies renamed their university relations office to be their open innovation office.

However, I was a little more encouraged in looking through the news articles that Google emailed to me in November (thus far) — perhaps more encouraging than when I started the news watch four years ago.

Two sorts of articles have been there consistently throughout. One is for the crowdsourcing companies that are seeking to match firms with external suppliers of ideas — certainly a form of open innovation, but (as I’ve found in my research) tending to be narrowly focused on just the sourcing aspect.

The other common thread are stories that treat “open source” as synonymous with “open innovation.” The two terms are not synonymous: there’s an overlap in some cases but they are disjoint in other cases. This is the sort of misuse of the term I’m trying to discourage.

And yes, I saw a certain amount of greenwashing-type usages, using the buzzword for PR purposes. Alas, some of this is being done by the US government: small high-visibility innovation efforts don’t make a $3.5 trillion/year bureaucracy innovative — any more than banning iPad purchases make it efficient.

Still, what I found in this month’s data was more encouraging than I expected to find. One example was this news item from last week:
XYZ Corporation has announced a new Web portal to support its existing Open Innovation program. The new Web portal will increase the pace of innovation, in targeted areas, by improving XYZ Corporation's ability to leverage outside resources.
At the one level, this is the same as hiring Innocentive or Nine Sigma to find new technologies. On the other hand, the effort of setting up a portal demonstrates a greater level of commitment to OI — and perhaps to act upon these ideas — than a few experiments with outsourced crowdsourcing vendors.

Overall, I think the trend line is encouraging. There’s more real open innovation happening in practice, and perhaps even a higher proportion of it is real.

October 7, 2011

Apple's contributions to open innovation

To mark the passing of Steve Jobs, this seems like a good time to review Apple's contribution over its 35-year history to what we now call open innovation.

Since Wednesday’s news of Jobs’ untimely death, various press reports have pointed to Apple’s success under Jobs in creating or transforming multiple industries. Often such coverage points to Apple losing the market share war due to its proprietary Macintosh platform, but the story of its problems during the 1990s was always more complicated than that.

When it comes to open architecture, its record is mixed. Apple has had its proprietary side — particularly recently with its iPhone, which was originally locked to one carrier, banning some applications but not others, and making misleading claims about its reasons for being closed.

However, Apple under Steve Jobs was also a pioneer in open innovation for technology-based industries. There were three ways that Apple set a new standard for how a firm can profit from external sources of innovation — and also how it could enable third party innovators to profit as well.

1. Component Based-Business Models

Apple has always shipped its own proprietary software. The two Steves recognized earlier than any other computer make that the value of the computer comes from the software, not the case or power supply. Apple has always been a system integrator, a crucial approach to open innovation in component-based industries.

Steve Wozniak is recalled as the electronics tinkerer who graduated from the Homebrew Computer Club to a Los Altos garage. However, even marketing guru Steve Jobs was (as he recalled in a 1995 interview) inaugurated to electronics by building electronics gadgets out of standardized components.

The Apple 1, II, ///, Macintosh and other products were made out standardized components, including CPUs from MOS Technology and Motorola. With the rise of global supply chains during the 1990s we take that for granted that this is normal, but it was certainly not normal in the 1960s and 1970s for market leading computer companies like IBM and DEC.

Apple also helped fuel the success of a small software company called Microsoft — which provided the Basic interpreter for the Apple II and its new Word and Excel applications for the Macintosh. And in the 21st century, Apple supported open source by bundling and provided resources for technologies such as CUPS and particularly with WebKit.

2. Standardized Complements

IBM certainly started the software industry with its crucial 1969 decision to unbundle software from hardware, made in the shadow of ongoing antitrust investigation. However, Apple played a comparable role in enabling the 1979 release of the first true software “application.”

The problem was that before the Apple II, nearly all software required some technical skill to install and/or configure. No two mainframe configurations were exactly the same, but with only a few thousand models sold of most mainframes. Even the popular CP/M systems had a wide range of configurations that posed a challenge for user-installed software.

The Apple II offered software developers a standard configuration, a large target market and with it economies of scale. The result was VisiCalc, the first “killer app” that provided a reason to buy a computer.

3. Direct Distribution of Complements

Steve Jobs was gone from Apple from 1985-1997, and during those dark ages many of us despaired that the company would be able to survive. This was also the era when the company had the worst problem with “Not Invented Here.”

When Jobs returned, the most crucial contribution to open innovation in the Jobs II era was the invention of the app store. Yes, the app store was important to the success of Apple’s iPhone franchise. And yes the success of the app store was not just the concept but also executing better than its competitor, while at the same time Google has been more open in its app store approach. Even when competitors had more installed base and more applications, Apple’s approach generated more revenue for more developers than any of its rivals.

Apple revolutionized the distribution of third party software with its app store. Before the app store, software developers had to fight to get distribution of their software on virtual or electronic shelf space. (That’s why my company got out of the software products business in 1993.) The iPhone App Store eliminated this barrier, enabling entry by even the smallest software developer with more than 500,000 applications available to any iPhone owner. (Windows claims millions of applications, but there is no practical way for the average user to identify or acquire the vast majority of these apps.)

Apple also created markets for third-party hardware with its physical retail stores. The various makers of iPod (and later iPhone) doodads — such as cases and external speakers — would not have enjoyed the sales they did if these complementary products were not internationally distributed alongside the core product.


Apple certainly gained success through partly-open, high margin strategies. No one was more intent on value capture than Steve Jobs, and there were many things the company did to justify its proprietary reputation.

However, the success of Apple also paved the way for the success of many other innovators, setting the pattern for the rest of the IT industry in its integration of hardware and software components, by creating standardized markets for complements and then accelerating the distribution of those complements.

September 29, 2011

Open innovation, entrepreneurs and resources

Cross posted from the Engineering Entrepreneurship blog.

We had our first entrepreneur of the academic year speak today at KGI in Claremont. Eric McAfee is a chronic serial tech entrepreneur, having started two biofuels company, a solar company and a software company (among others).

I’ve met a lot of tech entrepreneurs and heard a few Silicon Valley entrepreneurs speak. Even so, I felt he made an important point about leverage and open innovation for startup companies.

For McAfee, the distinction between an entrepreneur and a manager is that an entrepreneur is someone “who allocates resources that they do not currently control,” while the manager allocates resources they control.

To me, this is the flip side of the oft-quoted Teece 1986 formulation. Teece focused on what entrepreneurs should do if they can’t control resources. McAfee’s point is that entrepreneurs often shouldn’t even try — that it’s usually better to buy or license the missing piece of the puzzle.

He explained two examples from his current biofuels company, Cupertino-based Aemetis. First, to get key bioprocessing technology he bought another company — U. Maryland spinoff Zymetis — rather than develop the technology in-house.

His reasons were completely in consonance with the open innovation paradigm. From a technology standpoint, “most companies are stuck with the not-invented syndrome,” McAfee said. “We’ve got to be the best technology company which sometimes means we have to buy other companies or license technology.”

The other approach is that they’re taking that technology and using it to improve the cost-effectiveness of existing ethanol plants — which are often stuck in a commodity business. So instead of buying and owning those plants, Aemetis partners with the existing owners and shares in the proceeds.

So if in Teece’s world of 25 years ago, the goal was to control as many resources as possible and make do when you cannot, in McAfee’s world, the goal is to control the resources that are important and partner for the rest. I think there are clearly cases when the latter approach is superior — particularly in a fast-moving industry where capital is scarce and the window of opportunity may close.

September 22, 2011

New opportunities in technology transfer research

At the annual T2S (Technology Transfer Society) conference, a major emphasis has been the use of university science by existing or startup firms. Firms using university technology fits into the category of “innovation explorer” or “innovation benefactor” identified by Chesbrough (2003) and later mentioned by West, Vanhaverbeke and Chesbrough (2006).

Papers on university innovation were numerous among the 29 paper sessions at this week’s T2S conference in Augsburg, Germany. Among the keynote speakers, Mike Wright — recently appointed to Imperial College London — made academic entrepreneurs the subject of his keynote address.

A lot of the research has been conducted on US universities using the annual licensing survey by AUTM, the Association of University Technology Managers. In a session where I presented my own work (on solar energy), there were two new perspectives on this issue.

One was an (in progress) two-year study of European universities and research institutes presented by Franz Barjak of Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz (FHNW) in Switzerland. The study was funded by the European Commission to follow up on its recommended principles for knowledge transfer (European Commission, 2008), and looked at the EU and other adjoining regions.

An early survey noted that the most systematic knowledge transfer policies were in the largest (UK, Germany, France, Spain) and Nordic countries — but that Switzerland and Israel had effective informal policies. In a second phase, a comparison to the AUTM licensing survey showed significant differences between Europe and the US — and also between European universities and other research institutes. More information on the study can be found at

An even more novel study was the one by Mary Beth Hughes of the Science and Technology Policy Institute, examining the 1000+ Federal Research Laboratories back in the US. Among other findings, the study found major variance in how revenue is split with researchers (15-40%), the resources devoted to tech transfer, and the ease of which industry can learn about the labs’ research.

A few labs had best practices — using SBIR grants, allowing employees to take entrepreneurial leave, bringing in an entrepreneur in residence — although the benefits of these practices are not proven. The fact that there is no integrated Federal site to identify lab technologies — or standardized reporting to monitor tech transfer efforts — suggests that (IMHO) Congress hasn’t been all that serious about its nominal transfer goals.

The full study is on the STPI website. Hughes encouraged researchers to study tech transfer in the research labs, both by using their data and by working through the 700 members of the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer.


Chesbrough, Henry. 2003. “The era of open innovation,” MIT Sloan Management Review, 44 (3), pp. 35-41.

European Commission. 2008. “Commission Recommendation on the management of intellectual property in knowledge transfer activities and code of Practice for universities and other public research organisations,” Directorate-General for Research, DOI: 10.2777/13162.

West, Joel, Wim Vanhaverbeke and Henry Chesbrough. 2006. “Open innovation: A research agenda,” In Henry Chesbrough, Wim Vanhaverbeke and Joel West (Eds.), Open Innovation: Researching a New Paradigm, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 285-307.

September 6, 2011

The Open Innovation (Web 2.0) Community

When Henry Chesbrough and I relaunched last year as the Open Innovation Community, one of our major goals was to create a community by which open innovation scholars could meet to discuss important issues. (Here I confine my focus to the role of the OIC for an academic audience, which we see as distinct from the industry audience that the revamped website now serves).

To reach a broader academic audience, one obvious approach was to work with our former co-author, Wim Vanhaverbeke, to leverage the Exonovate network of scholars that he has built in Europe. (This was even more obvious because Wim and Hank are part-time faculty at ESADE in Barcelona, where they have been organizing OI classes for industry and PhD students.)

However, Henry and I also decided to form an academic advisory board and — to overcome the bias of our being in the same country and state — get a broader geographic representation. We approached three promising young open innovation scholars. (Young in this case being a relative term).

We were pleased when all three of our first choices agreed to serve: Oliver Alexy (Imperial College London), Sabine Brunswicker (Fraunhofer IAO) and Alberto Di Minin (Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna). Not surprisingly, all have been (or will be) speakers at Henry’s open innovation speaker series at UC Berkeley.

Oliver has been quietly adding information about teaching cases to the OIC teaching section. He also plans to add syllabi, teaching modules and other material that would be useful to faculty teaching classes about (or including) open innovation topics.

Alberto has launched a Facebook page that is the first official OIC presence away from the OIC website. The page can be found at We are also discussing possibly creating communities on other popular sites, such as LinkedIn or Xing.

Sabine is planning for discussions on the OIC website itself. Our goal would be to develop conversations on the website about any content that’s on the site. We also plan to link these discussions with Henry’s Twitter feed and this blog.

As with the rest of the web, there is a fine balancing act between encouraging conversations and attracting spam. I know from my own blogs that attempts to post overt spam (links to promote commercial transactions) are quite common. But I also know from the 1.0 website, email discussions and of course conference presentation that academics are often tempted by free opportunities for blatant self-promotion. (“The best OI paper ever published is … mine!”).

So the advisory board will be having discussions about the best way to encourage healthy conversations about ideas and opportunities — whether for research or teaching — that are relevant to open innovation scholars. Please feel free to contact any of us with your ideas or suggestions.

August 22, 2011

Fall OI speakers at UC Berkeley

The Program in Open Innovation has replaced the Center for Open Innovation at UC Berkeley. It’s still headed by Henry Chesbrough (with Solomon Darwin holding the reins during his globetrotting) at the same location with the same website, but apparently it’s now bigger and better than ever.

The fall speaker series starts next week. The sessions will be held at the Haas School of Business on Mondays 2-4 p.m. with two speakers per session. As always, visitors are welcome — I know I’ve met some interesting people at these sessions.

With my move to Southern California, this may be the first time I’ve been unable to make it, but I look forward to the YouTube videos. Note: updated with last-minute substitution of October 10 speaker.

Date Speakers Topic
Aug. 29 Henry Chesbrough
Director of the Program in Open Innovation, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley
John Wilbanks
Vice President, Science, Creative Commons
Role of IP
Sept. 12 Ron Resnick
President and Chairman, Intel, Mobile Wireless Group
Open Innovation in International Mobile Telecommunications
Oliver Alexy
Research Fellow, Imperial College, London
Open Innovation Intermediaries
Sept. 19 Jim Spohrer
Director of Services Research, IBM
Role of Universities
Esteve Almirall
Professor, ESADE, Barcelona, Spain
Open Cities
Sept. 26 Howard Atkins
(formerly) Chief Financial Officer, Wells Fargo Bank
Innovation in Financial Services
John Pramod
VP of Strategy and Innovation, McKesson
Open Innovation Strategy Challenges at McKesson
Oct. 3 Kal Patel
(formerly) President of Asia, Best Buy

Open Innovation in Retail Businesses
Aneesh Chopra
Chief Technology Officer, Office of Science and Technology Policy, the White House
Open Government
Oct. 10 Deepu Rathi
Director of Business Development, Cisco
Product Innovation
Joel West
Professor, KGI - Keck Graduate Institute
Solomon Darwin
Associate Director, Program in Open Innovation, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley
Strategic Openness 

August 16, 2011

Another year of even more OI research

At #AOM2011 on Monday, I was reminded that the first OI session at Academy was the 2004 PDW that Hank Chesbrough and Wim Vanhaverbeke organized in New Orleans. Within 48 hours, I had expressions of interest for the academic book (both by authors and publishers) that the three of us then published with Oxford in 2006, with chapters that were also excerpted in the 2005 Showcase Symposium that I organized and chaired in Honolulu.

This week in San Antonio, I attended 2½ OI sessions (late to one) as well as a crowdsourcing session and some other sessions in innovation and entrepreneurship.

The first of those sessions — and the only panel discussion — was held Monday morning at 8am (6am PDT, ugh). Organized by Dries Faems and Alberto Di Minin, it was (appropriately enough) entitled “Organizing Open Innovation: Combining Value Creation and Value Appropriation.” Repeating from the initial 2004 OI session were Wim and I (Chesbrough is overseas) as well as two all-Italian teams.

It’s difficult to synthesize a 90 minute session in a blog entry — although discussant Juan Alcacer of HBS did a great job. But if anything held the papers together, it was this focus on value creation vs. (or with) value capture.

Brusoni & Prencipe

The dynamic duo of Italian innovation research, Andrea Prencipe and Stefano Brusoni, presented their conceptual paper about innovation coupling that attempts to answer the question: when is it best to be open and when is it best to be closed. The closed story is fortunately similar to those we’ve seen in proprietary platform research for years: firms promulgate proprietary platforms early in a technological regime when their end to end coordination is highly valued. (Prencipe/Brusoni call this “responsive”).

The fundamental concept behind the paper was that we need to consider how firms couple their organizational units — both the strength and the linkage of the units. Their propositions about the optimal coupling depended on the environmental ambiguity, complexity and uncertainty. (Alcacer quite reasonably asked: what about firm-specific factors that influence the decision, or external factors such as appropriability or munificence.)

Beyond the when closed (or open) idea is the unexpected corner of the 2x2: when firms have to be both closed and open. While Chesbrough (in the Chesbrough funnel) talks about combining open and closed strategy, I don’t recall anyone ever making a case that firms need a special competence in being able to shift between the two. (Both Alcacer and I felt the construct was reminiscent of the Tushman-O’Reilly concept of an ambidextrous organization.)

Cassiman & Valentini

The two middle papers were empirical ones. Bruno Cassiman and Giovanni Valentini did a large-N study following up on the Cassiman and Veuglers (2006) Belgian CIS study. After selecting only firms that are innovation active, they they compared the innovation performance of firms that bought innovation (inbound OI), sold innovation (outbound OI), both or neither.

Following directly from Chesbrough (2007), the prediction would be the firms that do both would be the most successful: reducing their costs and incrementally increasing their revenues.

Alas, that’s not what happened — according to their econometrics thus far. With various controls and outcome measures — most about new products divided by some control — the buy/sell were consistently the worst. In at least one formulation, the buy-only and sell-only cases were twice as efficient as the other two cases.

We all scratched our heads over this one. As Cassiman noted, there is a theoretical (and well understood) complementarity of make vs. buy, but perhaps not of sell vs. buy. Some people wondered whether it’s a short-term effect: that over time such firms will be more successful.

Or it could be another manifestation of the finding of Dries Faems and colleagues (2010) that OI can raise costs more than revenues. Certainly the presumption of rationality does mean we expect firms to accurately estimate a priori the returns from a hybrid strategy, particularly early in a new bandwagon like OI.

As I sat there, I worried strongly about the endogeneity of the buy/sell decision — not from a methodological standpoint, but a theoretical one. (Easy for me to say, since I don’t try to do carefully controlled large-N econometric studies). Like other small countries, almost all the local companies are SMEs. We know that there is great variation among SMEs — some really good companies and some really struggling ones. Without having a better sense of why firms are pursuing (this unusual) strategy, I’d be cautious about trying to interpret the finding.


Next up was Wim Vanhaverbeke of Hasselt, Leuven Gent and Esade. (He’s holding more permanent faculty positions simultaneously than most people hold in their career.)

Wim has gone from a big firm SMJ-kinda guy to focusing on OI in SMEs. Of course, the first paper on this subject was van de Vrande, de Jong, Vanhaverbeke and de Rochemont (2009).

He gave us a taste of his in-depth study of OI in 10 small and young(ish) companies — but only a taste as he tried to cram a 45 minute talk into 15 minutes. His paper also keyed of Chesbrough (2007), in this case on the centrality of the business model.

He claimed his study was of low-tech OI but several of the examples were very high-tech approaches in low-tech industries. Exhibit A was Quilts of Denmark, using rocket science to make a better quilt. QOD collaborated with Outlast to leverage NASA-licensed material to make Temprakon, a quilt that was warmer for cold bodies and cooler for warm bodies.

Three of the most interesting observations were confirming observations about SME strategy and showing their direct application to OI SME strategy. First, OI collaboration between firms depends on strong individual-level ties. Second, cooperation is easiest between two companies of the same size — i.e. the small firms have trouble working with larger firms.

Finally, the OI-practicing SMEs don’t have some grand a priori strategy, but instead are pursuing a discovery-driven growth strategy (cf. McGrath & MacMillan, 1995).


Finally, academia’s most beloved open innovation blogger presented his own work tying together open innovation with open standards and open source, among other topics. This week’s paper — on a concept I call “strategic openness” — is a much more theoretical piece than the earlier West 2007)

The central motivation of the paper was the analysis of Simcoe (2006) on the inherent OI tradeoffs of value creation vs. value capture: not just that they are traded off, but that firms care about the product of the two, i.e. the total profit. Related arguments were made by West 2003 (in control vs. adoption) and West & O’Mahony 2008 (control vs. collaboration).

I got some very useful feedback at the session. I’ll be blogging more about this paper in a future article.


I had read Juan Alcacer but never met him. Far from being an open innovation advocate, he nonetheless was a great discussant — and not just because he liked my paper or that we both joked about Google’s announcement that morning of the Motorola purchase.

He saw all of the papers saying something about fundamental principles of open innovation — particularly the Cassiman presentation, which was testing a central tenet of OI. I was linking OI to strategy and competition, while Prencipe was examining the antecedents of OI. Wim has wonderfully rich and multi-dimensional data about how open innovation works in small companies.


This was a great session. The value was not just the people in the front of the room, but the great group of people in the room — all the top OI minds in Texas this week.

It was enough for me to tell my wife that it’s worth coming back to AOM next year — despite their price gouging strategy. (Alas, the rest of the conference was downhill from there).


Cassiman, Bruno and Reinhilde Veugelers. 2006. “In Search of Complementarity in Innovation Strategy: Internal R&D and External Knowledge Acquisition,” Management Science, 52 (1): 68-82. DOI: 10.1287/mnsc.1050.0470

Chesbrough, Henry. 2007. “Why companies should have open business models,” MIT Sloan Management Review, 48 (2): 22-28.

Faems, Dries, Matthias de Visser; Petra Andries, and Bart van Looy. 2010. “Technology alliance portfolios and financial performance: Value-enhancing and cost-increasing effects of open innovation,” Journal of Product Innovation Management, 27 (6): 785-796. DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-5885.2010.00752.x

McGrath, Rita Gunther and Ian C. MacMillan. 1995. “Discovery-Driven Planning,Harvard Business Review, July-August, pp. 44-54.

Simcoe, Tim. 2006. “Open Standards and Intellectual Property Rights,” in Henry Chesbrough, Wim Vanhaverbeke, and Joel West, eds., Open Innovation: Researching a New Paradigm. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 161-183.

van de Vrande, Vareska, Jeroen P.J. de Jong, Wim Vanhaverbeke, Maurice de Rochemont. 2009. “Open innovation in SMEs: Trends, motives and management challenges,” Technovation, 29 (6-7): 423-437. DOI: 10.1016/j.technovation.2008.10.001

West, Joel. 2003. “How Open is Open Enough? Melding Proprietary and Open Source Platform Strategies,” Research Policy, 32 (7): 1259-1285. DOI: 10.1016/S0048-7333(03)00052-0

West, Joel and Siobhán O’Mahony. 2008. “The Role of Participation Architecture in Growing Sponsored Open Source Communities,” Industry and Innovation, 15 (2): 145–168. DOI: 10.1080/13662710801970142

August 2, 2011

Developing country developing open source

Over the weekend, I flew to Johannesburg, South Africa for a conference on open source software hosted by the School of Business and Economic Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS). I was invited to give the opening keynote, and spoke about my current study integrating prior work on open IT strategies. (More on that later).

The conference featured both local and international speakers; the former were a mixture of faculty, few graduate students and one practitioner.

One interesting panel had an argument (between two friends) over conflicting IP goals of South African government policy. IT consultant Derek Keats complained that a 2008 Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Financed Research and Development Act (a more centralized twist on Bayh-Dole) would make it difficult or impossible for SA academic researchers to give away IP to open source projects.

Meanwhile, Prof. Robert Vivian argued that a government mandated preference for OSS was arrived at via unconstitutional means. (I noted my conclusion based on a decade of OSS research: the best procurement policy is to mandate a fair price comparison between OSS and proprietary software — one that tends to allow buyers to use the threat of switching to reduce lock-in rents but avoid the disruption of actually switching.)

Among the international speakers, Sebastian von Engelhardt of Friedrich-Schiller-University talked about his 2009 survey of 6,000 German software developers and IT consultants. He worried that those that used OSS might have a harder time getting capital or growing than those that developed proprietary software, but generally found the two types were similar except that the OSS firms tended to be smaller and younger.

Not all the papers were about open source software. Alessandro Rossi of University of Trento summarized a series of papers on how Wikipedia activity changes after an article is tagged as having a major problem. For example, if a WikiSimple article is tagged as having readability problems, the readability quickly goes up — but the rate of other changes goes down.

Marcel Bogers (@bogers) summarized antecedents to open innovation in prior research such as evolutionary economics, transaction cost economics, social network theory and the resource-based view. My personal favorite was a paper by Maradona Gatara on mobile crowdsourcing in Kenya.

The workshop closed with the big gun — economist Richard Langlois of U. Conn. Summarizing a forthcoming book chapter, he noted the dramatic parallels between early radio and early PCs: assembly was cheap while the components were valuable, hobbyists played an important role, the business quickly shifted to the importance of software.

The main difference is that during World War I, the US nationalized radio patents to facilitate ship-to-shore communication, and then spun them off after the war to create the Radio Corporation of America.

Disputing The Electronic Century by the late Alfred Chandler, Langlois concluded that the large RCA R&D labs were not a spur to innovation but a drag on innovation — because RCA wasted its resources trying to find new areas rather than improve existing technologies. Vertical integration and control by RCA (and Columbia) prevented the sort of modular innovation that became commonplace in the PC industry.

This was the first of what (funding permitting) may become an annual conference. Meanwhile, the local representative of Nine Sigma was handing out flyers promoting the “4th SA Innovation Summit” on 30 August. The summit is dedicated to “change, revolution, transformation, metamorphosis, breakthrough” and proudly proclaims that “we are anti-red tape.”

July 7, 2011

Auf wiedersehen

#oui11 — the Open and User Innovation 2011 — conference has been over for almost 24 hours, and the participants have scattered to the wind.

Actually, they have mostly returned to Austria, Germany, Switzerland or Scandinavia. My previous estimate of a dozen US-based participants appears to have been high, the number of Asians and Brits was half that; otherwise, there appear to have been misc. Europeans, two students from Mozambique and one Canadian. (Fred Gault of Canada doesn’t count in the latter category, because he’s clearly gone native.)

The emotional highlight of the half-week was the “Gala” dinner Tuesday — at a rather famous Vienna conference center — that turned into a celebrity roast for Eric von Hippel. I was going to offer an entire post on the roast — and the planned book honoring Eric’s 70th birthday next month — but I didn’t bring my laptop to take notes and my cellphone pictures didn’t turn out. A few notes from the roast:
  • EVH is a fifth generation college professor. (I knew about his dad Arthur from my study of MIT’s impact on the San Diego telecom industry, but not the earlier generations.)
  • Before he launched a revolution against IP, EVH was granted four US patents and the rights to extract proprietary rents from them: #3533249, 3541579, 3578909 and 3640482.
  • Since his 1986 article, he’s garnered more than 10,000 citations for his books and articles.
  • As best I can tell, his four most recent PhD students were present: Stefan Thomke (Harvard), Dietmar Harhoff (Munich), Sonali Shaw (Washington) and Karim Lakhani (Harvard). Also, one of his current PhD students, Benjamin Mako Hill, was enjoying not having to run the conference (as with last year).
I’ll post more info on the book once the details are finalized.

Overall, the conference is bigger, and with it the frustration of having to choose between conflicting tracks is getting stronger. However, the conference is still relatively intimate and manageable in size — at least when held in Europe and all the Americans stay home — and the quality of the ideas remains good.

The WU Wien’s innovations of thematic overviews and roundtable papers were good ones. I spotted two areas for improvement. Timekeeping (and timekeeping norms) in the sessions and roundtables could have been more predictable. <self-interested-plug>Also, of the eight themes of the track, only one (open innovation) was not represented: open innovation.</self-interested-plug>

Many of the participants will be reuniting in San Antonio next month, for that large impersonal (and now overpriced) gathering that the Academy has become famous for. (This year, an added bonus is August in one of the hottest parts of the country).

Otherwise, we will be reuniting next year on the other side of the pond, with a lot more Americans and a few less European Ph.D. students. The conference is scheduled to be held at MIT and Harvard July 31-Aug 2, in anticipation of the the Academy plague descending on the city a few days later.

As user innovation continues to grow in popularity — and perhaps as open innovation (as defined here) continues to be accepted at the OUI conference — it seems certain that OUI 2012 will be the biggest ever, posing challenges as to how to maintain the intimate feeling. But it will still be smaller than DRUID, let alone more than 7000 people expected for next month’s Academy.

I hope to be blogging additional topics on OUI 2011 over the next week or two.

July 4, 2011

OUI: Return to Vienna

The #oui11 Open and User Innovation conference began this morning at WU Wien. This is the 9th iteration of a conference that began here in 2003, and has alternated between the US and Europe ever since.

Nik Franke of WU talked about the ad hoc way that the first workshop got organized, when Eric von Hippel suggested that WU host it.. It was 25 participants then and 200 today. Franke showed a series of photos: a small classroom, overhead transparencies, perhaps some drinking. Even then it was mostly Germans: from among the photos, I recognized von Hippel, Franke, Frank Piller, and Christoph Hienerth.

The slides also showed some of the papers from the first conference that became journal papers. One I didn’t realize was at the first conferences was Sonali Shah’s seminal 2006 Management Science paper, one that introduced the idea of gated source to the academic literature.

Co-host Christopher Lettl noted the two main innovations in the format this year. One is the creation of roundtable (interactive) paper sessions. The other is the addition of invited keynotes: von Hippel and Carliss Baldwin this morning, more tomorrow and Wednesday. (All the major themes have a keynote, except for Chesbrough-style open innovation.)

Lettl also showed the stoplight alarm for minitalks that exceed their time limit, a formalization of last year’s flashlight by Mako at MIT. Unfortunately, the alarm got used (and ignored) far too often today.

The location and the path-dependence explain in part the high incidence of Germans here. Even more than in Cambridge last year, the hallway conversations are (natürlich) in German.

This is my 4th consecutive year at what (in 2008) was called the User and Open Innovation conference (and was the User Innovation workshop before that.)

In terms of trends in topics, business ecosystems are growing and communities remain strong. Policy and government implications seem to be growing. It seems like there is much less open source than previous years: only two papers (a third was cancelled when fellow Tweteer Maha Shaikh was unable to make it).

Open innovation (in the Chesbrough, not the von Hippel sense) remains small but significant — with one paper and three interactive sessions. It’s hard to tell, because in the three “open innovation” roundtable sessions, some of the title buzzwords (“lead user,” “online user communities”) don’t suggest an OI focus.

One thing that is certainly missing is any acknowledgement of July 4th. We dozen or so Americans here have remarked on it among ourselves, but apparently the Germans and Austrians don’t think noteworthy. There’s a good chance we’ll get würst and beer tonight, so other than being 9 hours ahead (and the only one wearing red, white and blue) the occasion will be suitably observed.

Update 9pm CET: My prediction was slightly off: no würst, no fireworks, but plenty of beer.

June 30, 2011

CFP: Participatory Innovation in a land down under

The inaugural Participatory Innovation Conference was held January 2011 at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) in Sønderborg, hosted by the SDU strategic research center SPIRE. A write-up of the first conference was published in early June at

What is “participatory innovation”? In their article, Henry Larsen and Marcel Bogers wrote:
Participatory innovation focuses on involving users as co-designers in processes of innovation. It draws on knowledge in a wide range of disciplines, such as participatory design, design anthropology, conversational analysis, innovation management, and organization theory. While it also relates to the theories and practices of user-driven innovation – as exemplified by the work of Eric von Hippel – and open innovation – as proposed by Henry Chesbrough – it distinguishes itself by its focus on innovation as being socially shaped.
As with any new conference, there was learning by doing: the first conference was held in Denmark in the winter, but the second one will be held in January 2012 in Melbourne, where it will be summer.

Here is the call for papers from the PIN-C 2012 conference website, written in some strange dialect that passes for English down under:
Participatory Innovation Conference 2012

Swinburne University Faculty of Design in collaboration with SPIRE, University of Southern Denmark is proud to host the Participatory Innovation Conference 2012.

This is a forum where participants from different disciplines and organisations can meet and challenge each other to develop the field of participatory innovation.

It will be held in Melbourne Australia from 12-14 January 2012.

The conference presents an exciting programme of five tracks: Indigenous Knowledge and Cultural Innovation; Evolving Design Anthropology; Making Design and Analysing Interaction; Organising Participatory Innovation; and Designing Innovative Business Models.

Abstracts and intents to participate: 5 August 2011
Notice of Acceptance: 5 September 2011
Full papers: 14 October 2011
Final submissions: 18 November 2011
As with the 1st conference, the intention is to have a multi-disciplinary approach, with research from design, innovation management and business. The organisers also hope to maintain the interactions between speakers and the audience — as well as academics and practitioners — that characterised the first conference.

June 29, 2011

Oui! We're coming to Vienna

The opening of #OUI2011 is less than a week away. The 9th International Open and User Innovation Workshop is sponsored by the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at WU (Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien).

The first social event will be Sunday evening, and the program runs from Monday morning until lunchtime Wednesday. Seven keynote (plenary) talks are planned:
  1. Eric von Hippel – User Innovation: The Big Picture
  2. Carliss Baldwin – Open and User Innovation in Business Ecosystems
  3. Dietmar Harhoff – User Communities
  4. Karim Lakhani – Crowdsourcing
  5. Christian Lüthje – Lead User Research
  6. Sonali Shah – User Entrepreneurship
  7. Nikolaus Franke – Toolkits for User Innovation and Design
I will be chairing the roundtable (interactive paper) session on open innovation Monday afternoon, and presenting a paper co-authored with Marcel Bogers in the open innovation paper session Wednesday morning.

It will be odd spending 4th of July in a foreign country (only the 2nd time I’ve ever done so), but I’m looking forward to seeing all my colleagues. Hopefully I’ll be over my jet lag and adjusted to Central European Time by then.

June 3, 2011

OI, crowdsourcing and Industry Studies

Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of BusinessAt #IndustryStudies2011, Natalia Levina of NYU and I hosted a session Thursday entitled “Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing.” My talk was the open innovation, while the others provided empirical data about crowdsourcing.

I gave the Industry Studies Conference audience the Chesbrough (2006) and other definitions of open innovation, while (thanks to Natalia) I used the Howe (2006) definition of crowdsourcing. After summarizing an in-progress paper co-authored with Marcel Bogers, I transitioned to crowdsourcing by summarizing the archetypes Natalia presented last year at AOM.

Jan Marco Leimeister presented his study of crowd-sourced innovations in SAPiens. He presented his study of various instruments for evaluating the quality of crowdsourced ideas, ruling out the simplest approaches (thumbs up) and most complex approaches, in favor of a typology based on the work of Teresa Amabile. (His findings were immediately adopted by SAP).

Next up, Nikolay Archak of NYU talked about his life with TopCoder — first as a top coder, and now as a Ph.D. student studying the website and its contests. Although I’ve heard Nikolay talk about TopCoder before, one thing I didn’t know was that the site originally started as an online community — with the contests as a way to evaluate community members — and it was only later that firms began to use it to produce real software.

How Breakthroughs Happen: The Surprising Truth About How Companies InnovateFinally, Natalia summarized her own work on what she terms “open innovation intermediaries,” and specifically her study of InnoCentive with various co-authors (including Anne-Laure Fayard and Karim Lakhani). After noting a theoretical debt to the work of Andrew Hargadon and his book How Breakthroughs Happen, she noted that the intermediaries offer a relatively low cost solution (compared to professional consultants) for firms facing an unsolved problem.

Natalia also noted that InnoCentive is moving beyond merely running contests to wrapping the contests with consulting services. This seems like a natural progression — ala IBM’s move from mainframes to IBM Global Services — and one that someone should have come up with years ago.

March 31, 2011

Will OI save advanced economies?

On Saturday, I was privileged to be invited to the launch party for Henry Chesbrough’s newest book, Open Services Innovation.

Open Services Innovation: Rethinking Your Business to Grow and Compete in a New EraThe party was at Henry and Katherine Chesbrough’s Bay Area home. The staff of the Center for Open Innovation (at UC Berkeley) were there, as were many other locals that the Chesbrough thought would be interested.

COI† associate director Solomon Darwin introduced me to people as being the kickoff speaker every semester for the COI speaker series. Darwin joked although my definition of open innovation was not the same as Henry’s, it was close enough that Henry was comfortable with my introducing the Berkeley graduate students to the ideas of open innovation every semester.

At an appropriate time, Henry stood up to make a few brief remarks in his library (which reminds me of Baker Library back at Harvard with floor to ceiling books.) He first acknowledged his parents in the audience, Dick & Joyce Chesbrough, to whom he dedicated the book.

He also acknowledged Syed Hasanain, executive VP of Computers & Structures, Inc., who is featured on pp. 145-147 of the book where CSI is Henry’s example of a “specialist” small services firm.

In his remarks, Henry said that his book was not just about open innovation. He also hoped that — in a era of commodity priced-based competition for products — that Open Services Innovation provided an example of how developed economies could create and sustain high paying jobs that wouldn’t go offshore.

As I noted last fall, the idea of Open Services Innovation is about bundling services and products to better meet customer needs. As with any new management proscription, we will need a few years to see how much of a difference the book makes, but obviously it is targeting a pressing need for companies in these advanced economies.

† In Berkeley-speak, the "center" has become the "Program for Open Innovation". I forgot to ask Henry or Solomon what exactly that means.

March 17, 2011

Open innovation and system integration

Open Innovation: Researching a New ParadigmPeople who read Chapter 6 of the 2006 Open Innovation book know that I’m particularly interested in how open innovation happens in component-based industries — like the PC and mobile phone industries I’ve been studying for more than 15 years.

It’s always a pleasure to hear that the ideas in that paper — particularly Figure 6.1 — are having an impact on people’s thinking, even if it’s a small fraction of Henry Chesbrough’s opening chapter from the book or his many other books and articles. As it turns out, this morning a friend sent me a picture of a Nokia slide presented at a Finnish standardization workshop Wednesday that used a version of Figure 6.1.
One of the things that I tried to do in my chapter (and in the final joint chapter) was to link the open innovation literature to the systems integration work, as represented by the excellent book edited by Andrea Prencipe, Andrew Davies and Michael Hobday. (Chesbrough had his own chapter in the book.)

The Business of Systems IntegrationTo me, the role of the system integrator is quite obviously that of a firm leveraging external innovations. Both perspectives lead to the same question: how does the integrating firm create (and capture) unique value if it’s leveraging the same external components as everyone else? I tried to provoke OI scholars to think more about system integration research — that there isn’t more research linking the two is perhaps my greatest disappointment about the book’s impact.

One of the few authors to consider this issue has been Jens Frøslev Christensen, who in his chapter (in our book) and his 2005 co-authored Research Policy article looked at how large consumer electronics companies reacted to the shift from analog to digital (Class D) amplifiers. The chapter in particular asks what open innovation means for the concept of core competencies.

However, coming at the same question another way is Mary Tripsas of Harvard, who presented a paper on digital cameras in UC Berkeley at its Open Innovation Speaker Series. The presentation was adapted from her forthcoming Strategic Management Journal paper with Mary Brenner (U. Minnesota) that is available on SSRN. Her presentation has now been posted to YouTube; below are some thoughts from listening to the presentation in person Monday.

Although not explicitly seeking to test an open innovation hypothesis, the design and empirical findings of the Brenner-Tripsas paper bear directly on this idea of integration, open innovation and core competencies.

The authors look at the features of digital cameras sold in the US 1991-2003. Why this period? Starting in 2004, a majority of the models conformed to the dominant design:
  • optical zoom
  • digital zoom
  • removable storage
  • high (1 MP+) resolution
  • lcd display
  • ability to record brief movie clips
What is interesting about the paper — and the context — is that the battle to establish a DD and win sales was taking place at the convergence of photography, consumer electronics (i.e. camcorder) and PC peripheral industries. So they test both industry- and firm-level effects as to how quickly firms adopt the newest (and eventually successful) features.

Since they got into SMJ, you know they have significant effects. With the seven features (including webcams, which did not become part of the DD), they see different effects for industry-level cognitive framing, firm-level cognitive framing and industry-specific imitation (i.e. copying your traditional rivals rather than the new ones created by the convergence smackdown.)

This suggests a chance to link open innovation back to the early cognitive strategy work of Tripsas, Anne Huff and others. (I once knew this literature, because my original dissertation plan was to look at the cognitive effects that expected demand had on the rollout strategies for cellphones in the US, Sweden and Japan.)

To put it more directly, perhaps knowing how to integrate is not the only skill that successful open innovation firms bring to the table — but also, as Brenner and Tripsas might suggest, knowing what and when to integrate as well.

March 1, 2011

Master class: open innovation and corporate entrepreneurship

ESADE is reprising its master class on Open Innovation and Corporate Entrepreneurship. It will be held in Barcelona from June 6-10 2011.

The main presenters are:
  • Henry Chesbrough of the UC Berkeley Center for Open Innovation
  • Ken Morse of the MIT Entrepreneurship Center
  • Wim Vanhaverbeke of Hasselt University

For more information, see the ESADE website.

February 9, 2011

Innovation paths spanning fiefdoms

When comparing open, user and cumulative innovation, one interesting pattern is that in some ways, open innovation is more like user innovation than other forms of open innovation.

The inbound mode of open innovation is about bringing external innovations into the firm for commercialization. So is the most corporate-oriented of user innovation research. There may be differences about the motivations (or unit of analysis) of the innovation supplier, but both streams encourage firms to look outside for innovation.

Similarly, some of the user innovation research has emphasized peer-to-peer communities, outside the locus of any firm. Examples include the (separate) work of Christopher Heinerth, Christina Raasch and Sonali Shah on communities of sporting good user innovators in areas such as snowboard, kayaking and sailing. But if you look at the cumulative innovation work of Peter Meyer at the 2008 and 2010 OUI conferences, there are many similarities.

Examining these similarities of distributed innovation research — regardless of the literature where they are positioned — is the topic of a paper Marcel Bogers and I have been working on. We argue that there are distinct innovation modes based on the locus (inside/outside) of both innovation creation and commercialization. We then elaborate the various modes (commercialization paths) and contrast the similarities and differences within each mode.

We developed a paper elaborating these ideas which we presented at Academy of Management conference in Montréal last summer, and I also excerpted elements of these ideas during my talk in Göttingen in May.

We are working to finish the paper for journal submission Real Soon Now, but that has been delayed due to my main responsibilities teaching and (since July) running the SJSU Solar Workforce project.

Still, we thought the paper might be of interest to others, and since AOM (unlike DRUID) does not distribute papers, we decided to post a working copy. For now, we’ve posted our final pre-Academy draft to SSRN (paper # 1751025).

Since then, we’ve been dunned with e-mails saying our paper was in the top 10 (as high as 7!) in ”Knowledge Management and Innovation” topic of SSRN. (We’ve gotten other emails claiming it’s popular in other categories but those seem to be false alarms).

This is, however, one of the first pre-publication papers I’ve ever posted to SSRN, even though mentors like Carliss Baldwin or Shane Greenstein have been doing this for years. As a doctoral student, I once believed the fiction of double-blind reviews. But today with Google and SSRN, it’s rare that an important paper will arrive at the reviewer’s desk totally blind. I think this is particularly true for user innovation researchers, given the role that the annual OUI conference plays in introducing UI scholars to each other and highlighting in-progress research.

February 5, 2011

German custom OI coming to town - twice!

On Monday, Frank Piller will be the third speaker at the UC Berkeley Center for Open Innovation speaker series. Frank is well known in the open innovation community for his massive array of PhD students and postdocs at RWTH Aachen, his own substantial OI/UI publication record, and of course for his first love, mass customization.

On the latter front, Frank will be back to hold his biennial mass customization conference (#mcpc2011) here in the Bay Area on November 15-19. The 2011 theme is “Bridging Mass Customization & Open Innovation, and thus his co-chair is the father of open innovation (and COI director) Henry Chesbrough. The CFP has been posted and submissions are due March 30.

I’m sorry that I won’t be able to attend the talk: Mondays are a busy day for me and it’s two hours one way on the bus and BART. However, the COI speakers are being posted to YouTube. Here are the first two speakers:
Frank is always interesting to hear, and last year I got to hear him speak twice. We shared the podium at an OI PDW at the Academy in August where he talked about how a successful OI program was ousted with its champion. In May, we were the one-two opening speakers for an OI workshop in Göttingen.

His is one of three or four talks that I plan to watch — since the video should be available a few days later on YouTube. After the semester gets further along, I might be able to sneak away to see one or two, as long as I’m back in time to teach my 6pm class.

February 1, 2011

CFP: OUI mit Sachertorte im Juli

One of my favorite conferences of the year is the open and user innovation workshop, informally known among attendees as the Von Hippel Fest.

In 2011, the conference is returning to Vienna for the first time since the original 2003 User Innovation Workshop.

The hosts of the Open and User Innovation Workshop 2011 are two well-known user innovation scholars, Nikolaus Franke and Christopher Lettl. The conference will be held at the Institut für Entrepreneurship und Innovation at the Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien (aka WU Wien for us Yankees).

Nik & Chris have posted the details to a new website Some highlights of the CFP:
  • July 4-6, 2011
  • To be held in Vienna
  • About 200 scholars expected
  • Registration is first come, first served: early registration is recommended
  • Abstracts (of up to 2,000 words) are due by March 31, and the actual presentation is due May 31.
In addition to the minitalk and the full paper, the organizers are adding a third type of presentation, the panel discussion.

I was fortunate to be able to attend in 2008, 2009 and 2010. I hope to return this year if travel funding is available.

January 29, 2011

Intel does more inbound OI

Stanford and Intel this week announced their joint R&D lab on the Stanford campus this week. As noted in the San Jose Merc and the Stanford press release, the research will include $2.5 million/year of Intel money over five years, as well as 30 faculty and 50 graduate students.

The Merc claimed it was “unusual”:
In an unusual collaboration, Intel and Stanford University announced Wednesday that their scientists will work together, on campus, to design new visual computing projects.
However, open innovation readers will recall that there’s nothing knew about Intel paying for its scientists to work alongside university researchers.

Intel’s cooperative university research was the focus of Chapter 6 of Chesbrough’s original 2003 book. And as Chesbrough noted in a 2005 interview with Strategy & Leadership, Intel worked closely with 15 US and 10 overseas universities on its basic and applied research. Intel has obviously made a major investment in this collaboration — paying its scientists, the lab costs and funding university projects — for more than a decade.

Intel is not the only firm to be so actively involved. In my 2008 road tour of mobile phone research at US universities, it was obvious that Nokia (then) had a significant presence at Stanford and MIT with its nearby research labs. Microsoft had an even greater presence.

This is not limited to software, which is why Novartis has a major research lab across the street from MIT and Johnson & Johnson has a research lab a mile north of UCSD.

Given the cutbacks in industrial research since the heyday of Bell Labs, companies are more dependent than ever on universities for basic research. The problems are that the companies need to have enough scale and investment in absorptive capacity to take advantage of the (rather expensive) access to external knowledge.

It also requires organizational slack and a consistency of commitment to see it through. When I visited Yahoo Research Berkeley with Youngjin Yoo in 2007, we were impressed with how far they had come in solving some tough problems at the cutting edge of mobile Internet services. When I went back a year later, YRB was gone, and its founder Marc Davis was temporarily at a Yahoo operational job en route to Microsoft (via a startup).

There’s more to open innovation and university relations that the canon of Chesbrough. One of the most oft-cited papers of the first decade of open innovation is the 2007 paper by Markus Perkmann and Kathryn Walsh entitled “University–industry relationships and open innovation: Towards a research agenda.” But as the paper suggests, there’s plenty of research that needs to be done at the intersection of these two streams.

January 24, 2011

Open Innovation Speaker Series: Spring 2011

Today marks the first day of another semester of the Open Innovation Speaker Series at the Center for Open Innovation at UC Berkeley, a combination of a public speaker series and a graduate seminar in innovation.

The academic speakers include internationally known innovation experts, including Frank Piller, Mary Tripsas and Sabine Brunswicker. There will also be an array of industry speakers, including representatives of Clorox, PARC, SAP and Xerox and the former CTO of Cisco.

I look forward to reprising my appearance today at the COI and giving the Berkeley students an overview of open, user and cumulative innovation. My only regret is to not be able to catch up with Henry Chesbrough, who is teaching open innovation to European Ph.D. students Monday and Tuesday. Today’s session will be hosted by co-organizer Solomon Darwin of UC Berkeley.

Except as noted, the sessions are Mondays from 12:30-2:00 p.m. in Sutardja Dai Hall, room 250.
24-Jan-11Joel West
Professor, Innovation & Entrepreneurship
San Jose State University
31-Jan-11Henry Chesbrough
Professor & Director, Center for Open Innovation
Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley
7-Feb-11Frank Piller
Chair & Director, Technology & Innovation Mgt.
RWTH Aachen University
14-Feb-11Jennifer Miller
Director of Corporate Innovation
23-Feb-11 (Wed)
Haas S480
Alex Osterwalder
Author & Speaker on Business Model Innovation
Business Design, Switzerland
28-Feb-11Jennifer Ernst
Director, Business Development PARC, A Xerox Company
7-Mar-11Santokh Badesha
Manager of Open Innovation
Xerox Corporation
14-Mar-11Mary Tripsas
Professor, Entrepreneurial Management
Harvard Business School
21-Mar-11Spring Recess
28-Mar-11Judy Estrin
CEO, J Labs
(Former CTO of Cisco)
4-Apr-11Vivek Whadwa
Professor & Director, Center for Entrepreneurship
Duke University
11-Apr-11Anand Ramachandran
Director of Co‐Innovation
18-Apr-11Sabine Brunswicker
Manager/Senior Researcher
Fraunhofer Institute, Germany
25-Apr-11Francesco Sandulli
Professor, Innovation & Information Technology
University of Madrid