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.