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.

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