August 18, 2014

Decisions for the 1st WOIC

After several meetings by the co-chairs and hundreds of reviews, the acceptance decisions have been made for the World Open Innovation Conference 2014. Authors have been notified and people can start making their plane and hotel reservations.

December's Program
The program chairs — Chesbrough, Piller, Tucci and West — were overwhelmed with the interest in our inaugural conference. We received 115 submissions, and will probably end up (after attrition) with about 55-60 plenary, parallel and interactive papers. We were limited both by the size of the venue and a desire to keep attendance around 100 people.

Being the first US-based open innovation research conference, we were unable to predict the mix of papers. There will be crowdsourcing papers, but not as many as at OUI 2014. Not surprisingly, the Chesbrough conference will have more patents than the von Hippel one, but not dramatically so. If anything, the difference seem most pronounced in the two sessions worth of business model papers. (As Marcel and I noted in our June 2014 JPIM, business models are an important part of the concept of open innovation, but relatively under-researched).

The program will include a new interactive paper format, combining the plenary intro pitch of OUI with the posters+drinks approach that worked so well at our 2012 London conference and this year’s OCIS social at AOM. I even had one author volunteer to give up a parallel paper presentation slot to do an interactive paper (which we nixed because the process would be a nightmare to administer).

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
When we did the London conference, we expected to get more authors from Europe than the U.S. In planning for WOIC, we worried that not enough of them would come to a resort 90 minutes from San Francisco’s international airport. We needn't have worried.

Of the 123 unique authors represented in the accepted papers, this is how they broke down:
  • 91 Europe: 23 Germany, 12 Spain, 11 UK, 8 Sweden, 7 Italy, 6 France & Switzerland, 5 Belgium
  • 26 North America: 25 US
  • 6 Asia
In other words, there will be nearly as many Germans (population 80 million) presenting in the US as there are Americans (population 315 million).

So perhaps there will be less German spoken at the Chesbrough-Fest (a medieval English name) than the VonHippel-Fest (honoring the son of a German-born physicist). But clearly German will be the 2nd most popular language at coffee breaks.

Given the travel costs, I expected more chaired professors, but that didn’t happen. Instead, about half of the names are familiar OI researchers (including 6 of the 19 accepted authors from the June 2014 special issue of Research Policy and 3/4 of the guest editors). Some of the other names are their students and other co-authors, but there are definitely names that I haven’t seen at an open innovation conference before (not to imply that I’ve been to every meaningful OI conference).

Tips for Future Authors
We made our decisions off of abstracts, which sped the review process but at times made it difficult to judge the substance of the paper. (Some authors did a better job than others of squeezing their key points into a 3,000 word abstract). Some conferences accept based on "I promise to write this paper", but — with so many strong submissions — many such abstracts didn’t survive in competition with completed research.

In doing my 58 reviews, I wrote some notes about how (IMHO) people could have presented the same research more effectively within the abstract format:
  • No need to include an abstract within your abstract.
  • The lit review needs to be drastically shortened — as in a real paper (or a PPT deck) it should be no more than 25% of the body of the paper.
  • Make sure your abstract communicates your contribution, not tells us what you hope your contribution will be someday. (If you don’t know yet, take your best guess — it will be better than ours).
  • Use as many words as you need to prove your point. What is your evidence? What are your methods? Measures?
  • Make the link to the conference theme explicit, as many papers were rejected for failing to do notice that this is a conference about “open innovation” (as defined by the CFP). That said, the paper will be accepted based on its potential contribution, not on its fit to the conference.
  • Don’t claim “there’s no theory in open innovation” and promise to be the first one to solve this problem. (NB: unless you’ve read every single article, it’s probably dangerous to claim to be the first to do anything in any research stream that’s 10+ years old).
Faced with an unexpected surge of demand, we instituted a “Rule of One” comparable to OUI or DRUID: one attendee, one paper. As with both conferences, some senior authors were listed on multiple papers with their students but only present one paper. In the end, the Rule of One only affected one person (me) who had an under-funded lead author who can’t fly from Europe in December to present his paper (forcing me to drop it or another paper where I’m lead author).

The Future
We expect to have a great two days (December 4-5) in Napa. The size seems just right — what OUI used to be, but slightly bigger than our wonderful 2012 London conference.

I hope that the Silverado Resort will have the same effect as my former hangout in Hawaii (HICSS): people will be happy to be there, and thus more relaxed (and hopefully creative and constructive) in their interactions. I suspect we will have more spouses than usual, allowing allowing people to put faces to names they have heard about for years.

In addition to having a nice venue, we also have the Napa Valley. After the conference ends, there will be an (optional) wine tour and other outings available.

For people whose papers weren’t done this year, there’s always next year: like a fine wine, good research should not be served before its time. We are hoping that by having a regular conference (December) and submission deadline (July 1), people will be able to plan to have something available for this annual event.

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