January 19, 2011

The pride of user innovators

At the #BAexec sponsored event last week, the title was “Social Networks for Innovations”. The host was Prof. Terri Griffith of Santa Clara’s Leavey School of Business.

Leavey is arch-rival to my own employer, the SJSU Lucas Graduate School of Business, but Terri and I have a dense network of mutual friends that long predate our respective hiring dates.

The afternoon event at SCU included two panels:
With 90 minutes per panel — mostly discussion — the discussion was much deeper than at a typical conference. And having donated my afternoon in exchange for a free lunch, it was reassuring to hear from very smart people on topics that overlap with (and in some cases extend beyond) my own expertise.

Griffith and Cramer blogged on the event. A video of the whole thing is at SCU’s website (not in Flash, but worse, Silverlight format).

I had slides planned for my talk — providing an overview of open innovation — but since others didn’t use slides I decided to ditch them. (As I often do, I did reference the standard references by Chesbrough and von Hippel.)

I have only limited notes of the first panel (since I left my laptop at the table), but here are a few observations.

The story of TechShop was an inspiring one — providing a way for user innovators to produce tangible goods such as a bamboo iPad case now available for retail sale. (As Griffith noted, TechShop appeals to the same audience as the Maker Faire.)

Here’s one exchange where I did have notes:
Audience: How do you handle IP issues?
Newton: This is not an issue at TechShop, because each inventor assumes their idea is the best [and so ignore the others.]
West: Generally what you need is win/win propositions and complementary business models: direct rivals don’t have a reason to cooperate but complementors do. Also — as I found in my encounter on this blog with a big cereal company — large companies can often be shamed into doing the right thing because they care so much about bad PR.
Jim Newton raised an important point I never would have considered. Still absent any data, IMHO the pride and hubris of inventors is good for short-term advantage, but of course any good idea is going to get copied.

Finally, one audience member asked how to get a company to adopt open innovation and consider external ideas. Carpenter’s view was that “if the organization is not ready, you can’t make it.” My advice was to use the corporate equivalent of gaiatsu — leveraging external pressure to get your internal constiuents to do what wanted them to do anyway.

No comments: