The concept of Open Innovation fascinates me. Fundamentally, it is a very decentralised, distributed, and more participatory approach to innovation and that’s where the beauty lies. I have always been a believer of co-innovation. Today, when there is so much knowledge which exists in the world, it is impossible for one individual or one company (no matter how big or small it is) to innovate effectively on its own.

Being in the technology business, like me, many of you must have heard the term open source and I think open innovation rides on that. The Open Source phenomenon began much before than open innovation and was developed independently. The main purpose of open source is to encourage greater participation of the community of developers who can contribute to making improvements to the source code to develop the project. The result is a better quality software with multiple perspectives from technology experts.

Open Innovation, on the other hand, is more about creating a greater pool of perspectives from a diverse community to get ideas. Essentially both focus on getting superior quality results by encouraging participation.

Here are some thoughts and views on open source and open innovation and the key differences that exist between them:

Open Source and Open Innovation- how do they differ from each other?

Open Source software is available for free to be used by the users and organisations with the purpose of using it and modifying it, according to their needs and requirements. The software may be tweaked and improved by developers around the world which may result in a higher quality product.

Open Innovation provides unrestricted access to ideas, products, designs that may be used by a number of individuals in different sectors for a wide range of purposes. The model of Open Innovation is based on the premise that businesses can gain benefit from the bi-directional flow of ideas and innovations coming from outside or within their companies.

However, there are some key differences between both these concepts –

  • Open Source offers a framework for intellectual property policy along with economic exchange. On the other hand, open innovation still leaves this aspect unanswered.
  • The scope of Open Source is limited to software development or making improvements. Whereas; open innovation is used much widely for problem-solving, improving current products, or even in research projects.
  • Open source promotes collaboration and sharing – here, the collaborative culture inspires people to work together across the boundaries of the organisation. Open innovation lays emphasis on a similar value, but the collaboration is more transactional or contractual in nature.

Why I Support Open Innovation System?

As I had outlined in my vision for a knowledge society, knowledge triggers innovation and the open innovation system offers many benefits to foster knowledge sharing –

Provides networking opportunities

Open Innovation helps in collaborating and engaging with smart people outside the organisation to assist in problem-solving. Thus, there are more minds that work together to tackle a challenging situation and find a viable solution together. It provides a great opportunity to engage with partners and users who share similar interests and work towards a common goal.

Reduces costs of development

With open innovation, there are greater possibilities of finding companies who already have readymade products and technologies or entrepreneurs with innovative ideas that can help in cutting down the time and cost involved in R&D for other enterprises. There is access to readymade products and companies need not have to worry about building it from scratch that helps them to focus their efforts towards improving the products and make those superior.

Promotes cultural diversity

Most of the breakthrough innovations are a result of collaborating beyond the boundaries of the organisation. Diversity because of the cognitive differences that come with different organisational cultures helps in avoiding groupthink. People from the same organisations share similar thoughts on how things need to be done compared to those coming from other organisations.

Greater emphasis on learning

Open innovation networks can be a useful way for learning about new concepts and facing challenges more effectively in the organization. This eliminates the need to set up many high risk and high resource internal projects for the purpose of learning as there is a chance to learn from other people’s mistakes in the network. There are greater possibilities of getting different points of view that can provide better insights and result in better learning outcomes.

Open Source and Open Innovation – Successful Use Cases

GE’s open innovation initiative

GE started this effort using the open innovation system with their Ecoimagination challenges where they came up with an ecosystem of partners in the form of VC’s to get some innovative ideas on issues related to smart grid and healthcare. They also ensured that these ideas were implemented using GE and its smart network. GE experimented with many new things with regards to innovation and even partnered with Local Motors for starting their new initiative for co-creating a new concept in home appliances. FirstBuild, which is their initiative in creating an online and physical community is targeted at designing, engineering, developing and selling a whole new generation of a range of home appliances.

GE has embraced open innovation successfully and believes that it’s almost impossible for enterprises to have all the best ideas and collaborating with experts and entrepreneurs who share a common passion for solving the most pressing issues in the world is the best approach.

LinkedIn shows how open source can be used in a smart way

LinkedIn has been successful in delivering the industry’s most awesome open source software – Cruise Control load balancing platform for Apache Kafka. Cruise Control did not have a real community but it was mainly developed to be used for LinkedIn. LinkedIn made sure that it created Cruise Control in such a manner which would translate beyond its needs to make it generalisable and extensible. There is a lot of effort involved to open source code such as Cruise Control and it is the open source approach on which the LinkedIn engineering mainly operates.

Their approach of using open source at LinkedIn by keeping everything open for its own utilisation and the external developers makes it a striking organisation to watch. It has resulted in a superior quality software for LinkedIn as well for others and enabled it to hire the best engineers.

By far, LinkedIn has released over 75 open source projects, some of them have grown up to be highly successful for developers and enterprises. It has also managed to build a high-class developers program that relies upon and feeds the open source communities.

Open Source and open innovation have their own applications but companies need to be more aware of the growing need for open innovation, which is a relatively new concept. It’s important to remember that not all ideas can come from within the company nor can they be developed within the boundaries of the organisation. This means involving other parties for developing new technologies and products can add a significant value to the organisation.

Based on this concept of Open Innovation, we, at Inteliment have developed iDS Cloud, which is the new age innovation for Simplified Data Science. We are looking forward to working with expert minds and innovators from enterprises and academia to develop some cutting-edge solutions using the platform. Connect with me if you are interested in knowing more about it.