Open Innovation: A Returning, Insightful Look

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July 2011
In This Issue:

"In an effort to benchmark progress (or lack thereof) in the areas of open innovation (and crowdsourcing) beyond some early anecdotes and cases, we have brought back the team that first discussed this phenomenon back in a 2007 issue of CBR."

-- Gabriele Piccoli, Editor

As faithful readers of Cutter Benchmark Review know, we have two yearly issues -- one on budgeting and one on IT trends for the upcoming year. As we prepare these releases, we collect a core of standard questions that remain constant every year and, aided by a set team of experts, we draw some longitudinal conclusions based on year-over-year analysis. These annual issues are now in their sixth installment and deliver some very interesting findings.

In this issue of CBR, we adopt some of the tenets of those yearly issues with the topic of open innovation. In an effort to benchmark progress (or lack thereof) in the areas of open innovation (and crowdsourcing) beyond some early anecdotes and cases, we have brought back the team that first discussed this phenomenon back in a 2007 issue of CBR (Vol. 7, No. 12). While the topic of open innovation first burst onto the scene in the earlier part of the 2000s, it only began to gather momentum toward the end of the decade with the addition of the crowdsourcing concept. Given the staying power of the open innovation trend, we thought it would be useful to revisit this topic with a new survey for CBR.

On the topic of open innovation, we were able to entice the original team of contributors from the 2007 survey, thus giving continuity to the analysis -- not just the questions. Our academic contribution comes from Cutter Senior Consultant Joseph Feller. Joe, whom many of you now know from CBR as well as other Cutter publications, is a Senior Lecturer of Business Information Systems at University College Cork (Ireland). Providing our view from the trenches of business is Ana Paula Valente Pereira, a partner at WhatEver Consulting Group and LeanDo Technologies, firms that helps customers leverage an integrated set of standard IT processes, promoting innovation, agility, and lean thinking. Ana has also been involved firsthand in open innovation as a contributor to the Open Unified Process (OpenUP), part of the Eclipse Process Framework.

As he did in his 2007 piece, Joe starts his contribution with a definition of open innovation to refresh the memory of those familiar with the concept while establishing our discussion for those who are new to the topic. He also puts his definition in the context of the survey results, drawing interesting conclusions with respect to the evolution of the attention and understanding of this phenomenon since 2007. I always enjoy reading Joe's pieces because I get so many tips. He's clearly plugged into what's happening, and his contribution on this installment of CBR is no exception. Following his introduction, Joe benchmarks the state of understanding open innovation and then comments on the survey results. He discusses the role that open innovation plays today in organizations, the sources of innovation that the sample firms utilize, as well as how they relate to open innovation. Leveraging the core questions that were asked in both the 2007 and 2011 surveys, Joe is able to draw interesting comparisons for each of these areas of inquiry. An important aspect of this year's open innovation survey was to try and dissect both the process of innovation and the exploitation of innovation in the context of open innovation efforts. As is standard practice for CBR contributors, Joe concludes with practical and -- in his classic Joe style that we have come to love and respect here at CBR -- provocative guidelines.

Ana is the second of our returning contributors in this issue, and she packs her piece with insightful analysis, as she did with her article in 2007. She reiterates a crucial point she made in her first contribution: openness is a continuum, not a binary condition. Ana analyzes the survey results through an integrative framework that identifies three stages along the openness continuum: open to external ideas and knowledge, open to new collaboration models, and open to new business models. She then focuses her analysis further by looking at open process innovation. As I mentioned in 2007, this focus on process innovation is of particular value to many of our readers who populate the IT shop, where most work is spent innovating processes rather than products. With sound conceptual bases in place, Ana turns to the survey results and a comparison of 2007 with 2011. She organizes the findings along the lines of an open-in, open-out, and open-collaboration framework. You will find her analysis and visuals very useful in understanding the recent evolution of the open innovation phenomenon. Ana concludes with tangible and practical guidelines.

In the closing comments to the introduction of the 2007 survey, I stated: "I have to admit that like the majority of the survey respondents, I was somewhat (vaguely) familiar with the term 'open innovation' -- just enough to recruit experts on the subject. Thus, for me, this issue has been a great learning opportunity, something that I am sure will hold true for most of you as well." While my own understanding of this area has progressed, mirroring the results of the survey, I am no expert on the subject, so let me reiterate that I found this year's issue and the insight it delivers very useful. I hope you will have the same reaction.

ABOUT THE EDITOR

In an effort to benchmark progress (or lack thereof) in the areas of open innovation (and crowdsourcing) beyond some early anecdotes and cases, we have brought back the team that first discussed this phenomenon back in a 2007 issue of CBR (Vol. 7, No. 12). While the topic of open innovation first burst onto the scene in the earlier part of the 2000s, it only began to gather momentum toward the end of the decade with the addition of the crowdsourcing concept. Given the staying power of the open innovation trend, we thought it would be useful to revisit this topic with a new survey for CBR.