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Open Innovation Word Cloud

Defining terms dynamically: by comparing, contrasting and thinking analogically

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
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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.

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Anne-Laure Fayard


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Photo of Shane Zhao

Anne-Laure, it's really fascinating to see you give a brief history of open innovation and highlight some of the sub-movements — some of the details I wasn't even aware of:) In particular, it's great how you've highlighted crowdsourcing and collective intelligence. I wonder what's the main differentiator between these sub-movements. Perhaps collaboration?

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Thanks Shane. I think that collaboration is clearly a point of distinction between some form of crowdsourcing which are more competition-based and focused on individual expertise (like on innocentive). However, open innovation as a broader movement is really about opening up boundaries and so in some ways presupposes some form of collaboration. As for collective intelligence, it originates from studies of animal behaviors (ants, termites, fish, birds, etc.) and highlight how the whole is bigger than each individual. It does imply some form of collaboration: that's what the collective is about.

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