One way to define terms is to compare and contrast them. In the literature on open innovation, several other terms have been used. Two of them are crowdsourcing and collective intelligence. I think that putting them in perspective might help us define better what is open innovation.
Open innovation has been originally defined by Chesbrough (2006) as the potential of tapping into such intelligence leads organizations to open up their boundaries to access not only internal but also external ideas. In a sense, when organizations work with consultants it is a form of open innovation.
One growing form of open innovation is crowdsourcing (a term first used by Howe, 2006), which refers to organizations taking functions once performed internally to an undefined (generally large) external networks of people through an open call. In the last few years, companies have been moving from crowdsourcing simple tasks to engaging the crowd to come up with innovative solutions (crowdsourcing for innovation). Successful platforms are Innocentive, Top Coders.
In the domain of science, crowdsourcing is known as citizen science, where non professional scientists participate to scientific research.
Collective intelligence is a form of distributed intelligence, emerging from the collaboration and competition of many individuals and the general ability of a group to perform a wide variety of tasks (Woolley et al. 2010).
Open innovation can described as a form of collective intelligence in the crowds (see the work by Boudreau and Lakhani 2009, 2011; Afuah and Tucci 2012).
Two examples of collective intelligence in action is the OpenSource movement and Wikipedia.
Looking at all of these definitions, what are the emerging themes:
- Fluid boundaries (between different organizations, different actors, etc.).
- Challenging the notion of in / out
- New ideas emerge from surprises, analogies, and going beyond our usual boundaries.
- Technology and online platforms supporting distributed communication, coordination and collaboration.
- Expert individuals or communities.