Oct 25

Open Innovation Version 2.0 – collaborate like the Wright Brothers


Apart from the specific area of Open source code, where collaboration is key, in my opinion, Open Innovation has yet to fulfil its potential in generating powerful collaboration between overlapping communities of practice. When the Wright brothers turned their attention to making the first powered heavier-than-air flying machine, they brought with them considerable expertise from bicycle manufacture and through their connections in the burgeoning automotive companies, they brought in a power plant with an acceptable power-to-weight ratio. The Wright brothers didn’t work in a vacuum, however,┬ábut shared their thoughts with a number of similarly minded,┬ábut diversely expereinced, enthusiasts around the world and learnt about flight control from their own and others’ experiments with kites and gliders. The common factor in this collaboration was a shared interest and enthusiasm. Deep levels of collaboration were achieved without the power of the internet, but┬álargely through┬áthe now unfashionable medium of letter writing.┬á

I see some signs today of similar┬ávirtual groups coming together to work on things like electric cars and open source software but I think that often bigger companies miss out on the opportunity to benefit from this sort of collaboration. I don’t think it would be impossible for a bigger company, given the right network connections and attitude, to encourage innovation which is both collaborative and mutually beneficial with a network of collaborators from different but complementary fields. If this happened, it might start to move us towards a more collaborative and less competitive Open Innovation Version 2 where the rewards of Open Innovation in terms of growth could be far larger than those enjoyed today.

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