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.