The overarching notion is that the Internet opens the door to a new world of democratic idea generation and collaborative production. Early triumphs like the Linux operating system and the Wikipedia Web encyclopedia are seen as harbingers.
In the new model, innovation is often portrayed as a numbers game. The more heads, the better — all weighing in, commenting, offering ideas. Collective knowledge prevails, as if a force of egalitarian inevitability.
But a look at recent cases and new research suggests that open-innovation models succeed only when carefully designed for a particular task and when the incentives are tailored to attract the most effective collaborators. “There is this misconception that you can sprinkle crowd wisdom on something and things will turn out for the best,” said Thomas W. Malone, director of the Center for Collective Intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “That’s not true. It’s not magic.”
Open-innovation models are adopted to overcome the constraints of corporate hierarchies. But successful projects are typically hybrids of ideas flowing from a decentralized crowd and a hierarchy winnowing and making decisions. In Linux’s case, anyone can submit code, but Linus Torvalds and a few lieutenants decide what code will be included in the operating system, noted Mr. Malone of M.I.T. Even Wikipedia — produced by collaborating clusters of contributors focused on particular areas of interest — relies on administrators to make final judgments on whether to delete a challenged article, he added.
OPENING the corporate doors to ideas and inspiration from the collective crowd holds great potential, but there are pitfalls, warns Henry Chesbrough, executive director of the Center for Open Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley. To succeed, Mr. Chesbrough said, a company must have a culture open to outside ideas and a system for vetting and acting on them.
“In business, it’s not how many ideas you have,” he observed. “What matters is how many ideas you translate into products and services.”
How Open Are You?
Most business cultures are “closed systems” which try and contain ideas, information and minds within corporate structures aimed at controlling activity and human resources. Most business leaders think they have become leaders because “it is all about them” rather than “it is all about serving others”. Serving the interest of others has always been and will always be the best way to engage others in achieving a vision that benefits everyone instead of just a few.
The web is now the solution to tapping into the minds and hearts of others (millions) with whom your vision has an attraction and affinity to their knowledge, interest and objectives. You can ignite crowds in collective dialog which will provide you the pathway to innovation. That is of course if you know how to engage in real conversations and form real relationships. Get it?
What say you?