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.

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