Open Innovation = Co-Creation + Crowdsourcing

A good friend of mine Michael Docherty, the founder of the consulting and new ventures firm Venture 2 Inc. (and author of the highly-acclaimed book “Collective Disruption”), was interviewed recently by IdeaConnection’s Paul Arnold. (By way of shameless self-promotion, here is my interview with Paul Arnold.)

I’m not going to get into detail of what Michael has said – one really has to read the interview in full – but I’d like to draw your attention to the last paragraph where Michael is trying to define “open innovation” and seems to be setting it apart from crowdsourcing.

If Michael did mean that, I would respectfully disagree with him here, for I consider crowdsourcing part of open innovation.

The “openness” of crowdsourcing is implied in its very definition given by Jeff Howe in 2006: “[t]he act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.”

I like this definition for two reasons. First, it clearly defines crowdsourcing as an act of going outside of the organizational borders, which is obviously the principal hallmark of any open innovation approach. Second, it points to the major difference between crowdsourcing and other open innovation tools: the identity of open innovation partner(s). When you collaborate (co-create) with your customers, suppliers, academic and business partners or startups – by engaging your “innovation ecosystem,” as Michael Doherty would say – you deal with defined partners, the partners whose identity is known to you. In contrast, crowdsourcing involves undefined partners, the members of a crowd whose identity is unknown to you, at least initially.

The presence of a large number of engaged partners – and the need to ensure that they all act independently of each other for a crowdsourcing campaign to be effective – dictates the use of online methods of aggregating of the received knowledge/information, either through external innovation portals or by using commercially available crowds provided by the so-called open innovation intermediaries. (Co-creation at the same time still largely relies on face-to-face interactions.)

With this in mind, I want to propose my definition of open innovation as a combination of co-creation and crowdsourcing:


Or, in short, open innovation = co-creation + crowdsourcing.

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is the Founder of (WoC)2, an innovation consultancy that helps organizations extract maximum value from the wisdom of crowds by coordinated use of internal and external crowdsourcing.
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10 Responses to Open Innovation = Co-Creation + Crowdsourcing

  1. jonathannorthpriluck says:


    Fascinating stuff as always. I personally like your terminology and conceptualization better than anything I have heard on any serious public forum. I especially like the graphical representation, as it is verbally unambiguous. The only thing I think might be factually incorrect is the issue of in person, or not. It’s not wrong, it’s just that very large, very professional, commercial entities all have their own culture. Depending on the level of professionalism you need to accomplish your objectives, you might have to spend a bit more time networking on the phone, or through e-mail. But that’s just my perspective :^)

    If I need to meet with the CEO of a fortune 1000 company, I just pick up the phone, and work my way up the “information chain of command” until I am talking to the CEO, the Board of Directors, or someone who has their number and can conference me in. It pays to have technology that nobody else has, can duplicate, or necessarily even knows about. Crowdsourcing just isn’t my thing becuase nobody on these kinds of networks will typically have enough combined technical, engineering, scientific, industrial, business, and industry specific trade secret level knowledge, to assist me in any meaningful way, on a financial level. At least not anything I can’t do better, faster, cheaper and with less “risk,” of any kind.

    P.S. I don’t beleive in risk :^). It’s a word people use, to be certain, but it has no meaning in my world.

  2. jonathannorthpriluck says:

    Sorry, I keep forgetting to use the Leave a Reply window. I just prefer my e-mail software becuase I can compose off line, and it’s much more secure. Which is a real issue for me becuase we do so much business with The Department of Defense. For your readers who don’t know what ITAR stands for, it’s the US and International Treaty Laws governing the Manufacture, Sale, and import/exportation of things that can actually be dangerous if they fall into the wrong hands. This can be just information, but usually for us it is large scale hardware and other “sensitive” technology. Pretty much anything we do that involves “National Security,” or unregulated transportation of things, that actually explode, or can be used by irresponsible people, without industry level Federal security clearance, and/or an industrial manufacturing license for each technology and product line.

    In other words, if lawyers are directly involved :^). I love technology, I just hate dealing personally with Lawyers, Accountants, and petty bureaucrats of any kind. It’s boring, it’s not a productive use of time, and it does not require the personal touch.

  3. jonathannorthpriluck says:

    Besides crowdsourcing, what other issues do you typically like people to post about? JNP

    • Thanks for your comments Jonathan. I’m interested pretty much in everything connected to “innovation.”

      • You should spend time looking at
        It’s got lots of innovative Materials Science and Industrial Manufacturing Technology info. I am sometimes mystified by the level, and variety, of technological terms outside my field of expertise. Both in terms of materials science (academic), and industrial engineering (commercial). Granted, industrial engineers speak a language all their own :^). When it gets down to the subtleties of investment casting, versus gravity feed investment casting, versus large scale production sand casting, you really have to be careful about not only what you say, but to whom you are talking. How’s that for a run on sentence?

  4. Hi Eugene – works for me! It should also explicitly include outbound OI (out-licensing etc) in the co-creation box.

    • Thanks Kevin, will keep this in mind for the future “update.” Actually, I’d love to add tech scouting to the mix, but am not sure where it belongs. Do you have any suggestion?

      Merry Christmas!


      • kgmcfarthing says:

        Hi Eugene,

        I think tech scouting is more of a “how to”. Yes, you could create another box but I think pragmatism is better! With scouting, you source technology from someone you already know or someone you don’t initially know, but then rapidly becomes a known partner, all in the interests of creating something new together.

        Have a good Christmas!


  5. Thanks, Kevin, I agree. I too believe that tech scouting can be easily (at least, from the operational point of view) put either in the co-creation or crowdsourcing box.

    Happy New Year!


  6. Pingback: A map of open innovation practices |

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