Open Source Innovation Models

Ross at the MaRS blog has an interesting post on Open Source Science. He points to an interview at HBS Working Knowledge with Karim Lakhani. I agree with Ross that the most promising aspects of open-source approaches are the possibilities of collaborating between domains, at Johansson’s intersections.

I told Tom and Jevon at Enterprise2.0Camp that i think one of the most interesting applications of Enterprise 2.0 collaboration tools is to facilitate innovation networks. Innovation networks are not open-source by definition, but they lie on a continuum of closed/proprietary to open/public domain innovation approaches. In my observations of competitive social behaviour among companies, institutions and non-profit organizations, there are many structural, political and social barriers to high-levels of collaboration on such a strategically sensitive area as research, innovation and product development. There are also strong collective economic incentives for doing it: reduced risk, reduced individual capital requirements, faster innovation cycles and giving a cluster of SME’s the research capacity of a large multinational.

Back at BarCampToronto2.0, I facilitated a session where we hoped to understand the economic rationale of open-source. You can see the rough notes from the session here. (Thanks again Deb!)

  • Why do developers contribute to open-source software projects?
  • What is the exchange of value that happens within open-source projects?
  • What is the relationship between companies and open-source communities?
  • What can we learn from open-source software that can be applied to other areas of scientific, technological, business, social and policy innovation?

I hope to continue developing that line of thought, but it now sits on a back-burner with many other ideas waiting for an opportunity to develop them further. In the context of the literature on creative clusters, I believe that open-source innovation and Enterprise 2.0 collaboration are two very promising areas for further research and practice.

My thesis: the global megalopolis that can integrate new innovation models such as these into its structure and culture will, in aggregate, innovate faster and over time become more competitive in a post-industrial, post-information age global economy.

Anybody want to collaborate?

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4 thoughts on “Open Source Innovation Models”

  1. I see a big difference between open-source projects and Enterprise 2.0. As I see it, the latter is primarily for people to collaborate within an organization or group of organizations, while open source is for collaboration among individuals. I think the distinction is important because the social/political forces involved are very different. For instance, I suspect that one of Enterprise 2.0’s biggest strengths is that it reduces the power of silos to keep people from collaborating, while silos are a much smaller issue in open source.

  2. To clarify, I was referring to open collaboration for non-software innovation, which is an area where Enterprise 2.0 tools can have a huge impact. Open-source software projects are the model, and enterprise 2.0 tools may enable that model to be applied to other domains where proprietary innovation paradigms are the only game in town.

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