May 11, 2012

Open innovation is not open distributed innovation

As noted, I’ve been reading a lot of “open innovation” papers recently, in service to a greater good.

In addition to the definition of “innovation,” another area of conceptual fuzziness (if not obfuscation) has been treating “open innovation” and “user innovation” (or “open, distributed innovation”) as if they’re the same thing. They’re not. Eric von Hippel has said so, and I think I know Henry Chesbrough well enough to say he would say so as well.

I personally am proud of having a foot in both camps, having tried for the past five years to both link and draw nuances between these literatures. I joined the OI world at the seminal AOM 2004 workshop on open innovation when I met Wim Vanhaverbeke and re-met Henry. (The rest, as they say, is history.)

In 2008, I was fortunate to attend my first user innovation workshops. Over the next three years, I got to know the UI community and Eric von Hippel.

While I’ve published two papers so far about open and user innovation, I think Linus Dahlander is today perhaps the best example of someone who has published significant work in both camps — including 170+ cites for his Research Policy paper two years ago (with David Gann).

I was honored when Dahlander and Gann mentioned my own small part (thus far) in linking these two worlds, first at OUI 2009 and then in their RP paper:
In all, 244 scholars have worked on 150 papers. This figure illustrates that the community is relatively fragmented with a few scholars that have collaborated with several others. There are few bridges connecting teams of researchers with the exception of West/Lakhani, who have connected open innovation researchers with scholars investigating user aspects of open innovation. (Dahlander and Gann, 2010: 702).
I think Dahlander and Gann have done the best job thus far of stepping back and seeing the similarities between the these two streams without blurring the differences. At the same time, my earlier work (in less influential journals) makes explicit the differences between the two.

Marcel Bogers and I have also been working on this perspective for a few years, in a paper we posted to SSRN and will be presenting in London. After publication of Dahlander and Gann, we have a higher bar to clear.


Bogers, Marcel and Joel West, “Managing Distributed Innovation: Strategic Utilization of Open and User Innovation,” Creativity and Innovation Management, 21, 1 (March 2012): 61–75. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8691.2011.00622.x

Dahlander, Linus, & Gann, David M. "How open is innovation?” Research Policy, 39, 6 (July 2010): 699-709. DOI: 10.1016/j.respol.2010.01.013

West, Joel. “Policy Challenges of Open, Cumulative, and User Innovation,” Washington University Journal of Law & Policy 30 (2009): 17-41.

West, Joel and Bogers, Marcel, "Profiting from External Innovation: A Review of Research on Open Innovation," (September 13, 2011).

May 3, 2012

Decisions for June's OI conference

On Wednesday the four editors of the Research Policy special issue on open innovation notified authors as to whether their paper was accepted for the special issue conference. While it was a day later than promised, we still turned around decisions in 16 days, in time for the accepted authors to make plans to be in London June 25 and 26. (More info will be posted to the conference website.)

We were surprised at the volume of submissions that we received: 78 papers and abstracts. I had personally been expecting about 30-40. This large volume is a testament to the high level of interest in open innovation in the research community.

Given the high demand, we wanted to accept more authors to share their work and participate in the conference. However, there was no way to add plenary papers without extending the conference, and we felt that multiple tracks would undercut our goal of sharing ideas across the entire conference.

Thus, we decided to add a poster session on Monday night, at a prominent time (before the conference dinner) when we expect nearly everyone to attend. With this poster session, more authors won an invite to present their work at the conference and otherwise fully participate in the discussion.

Overall, we accepted 37 plenary papers and posters. We will be posting the schedule once the invited authors have confirmed their intention to participate.

Unfortunately, given the aggressive schedule, we were not able to provide personal feedback for the accepted (or rejected) papers. For each papers or poster presented at the conference, after June 26 one of the four guest editors will provide specific direction based on our earlier reading, the reading of the final paper and the reaction at the conference.

Participating in the conference is not a requirement to be accepted into the special issue. On August 31, we expect to see plenary papers, posters, rejected submissions and brand new submissions. I would not be surprised if we receive even more than 78 submissions, leaving us with tough choices to create a special issue with less than 20 papers.

Having been on the other side, I know that being rejected from the conference will come as a great disappointment. Every paper was independently scored by two of the four guest editors and there was a high degree of consistency in the evaluations. While we felt there was a clear divide between the accepted and rejected papers, it's always possible that we made a mistake. However, given the high number of expected submissions, papers that were rejected are unlikely to be more successful unless they are significantly improved.

I want to offer two general pieces of advice to all three groups of authors (accepted, rejected, and new submissions). First, this is a special issue of Research Policy, and nothing will be published that fails to meet Research Policy's rigorous standards. Authors should look at their papers -- or get peer feedback -- to assess whether they meet these standards.

Second, only papers that build upon and contribute to open innovation will be published in the special issue (as opposed to a regular issue of Research Policy). There is certainly room for research that challenges existing thought in open innovation, and in fact engaging the existing research is the expectation for all papers in the issue.

Our ultimate goal for the special issue is to publish a diverse set of contributions to open innovation research with a variety of research designs, approaches and perspectives.

For those that are designing and writing open innovation research, I have my own personal ideas about what constitutes open innovation research. I will continue to post these observations to this blog.