Thursday, March 3, 2011

Great Moments in Open Innovation

Co-creation and Open Innovation are among the hottest ideas in innovation management at the moment. Yet, what is so surprising is that in our enthusiasm for this "next new thing" we have almost completely overlooked the very rich history of Open Innovation, Co-creation, & even Crowd-Sourcing, that spans several hundred years.

This is not an original thought, incidentally, and, if the topic is "co-creation," not being "original" is a good thing! Despite all of my advocacy, as an Idea Hunter, for looking into the history of things, if for no better reason than being able to "borrow" someone else's already-proven good idea, I confess that I had failed to even think about the antecedents of today's Open Innovation/Co-creation boom. Recently, however, I had the good-fortune and privilege of being interviewed by a Chennai-based website that is dedicated to co-creation, and they asked the question: "what about the history of crowd sourcing" as a form of co-creation and open innovation? What a great prompt! And, fortunately, there is an Australian blogsite Design Crowd [who says globalization isn't really wonderful?] that has a wonderful review of the history of crowd-sourcing, which is where I found the following:

  • In 1714, the British government offered the equivalent of nearly $25 million for contributions to precise and simple ways of determining longitude (John Harrison won the most celebrated of these).
  • In 1936, Toyota received 27,000 contributions from which their corporate logo was determined.
  • And, in 1956, the winning design of Danish architect Jørn Utzon for the magnificent Sydney Opera House was chosen from 233 entries from 32 different countries.

What is so impressive about each of these examples is the “managerial attitude” that had to be common in all three experiences: a recognition that more minds are better than fewer; a willingness to trust others, even outsiders, to help in the making of “big” decisions; and an apparent absence of “unease” in allowing this process to be inclusive. When you think about the magnitude of the choices involved, and the visibility of the outcomes, this is truly impressive!

1 comment:

Andrea Meyer said...

Discovering early origins of these ideas is fun! I looked into the history of open innovation challenges like the Longitude Prize when I was asked to give the opening remarks at the Innovation Cubed conference in Orlando last December. Some things I learned: In 1919, New York hotel owner Raymond Orteig offered a $25,000 reward to the first person who could fly nonstop from NYC to Paris. Although various people tried, no one won the prize until Charles Lindbergh in 1927. Orteig’s prize, in turn inspired the X PRIZE foundation to offer the Ansari X Prize: a $10 million award in 2004 to the first team from private industry to devise a spacecraft capable of carrying three people 100 kilometers above the earth twice within two weeks. The goal of the prize was to spur private investment and develop a commercial space industry.

I wrote more about this idea in my blog post, "Innovation-Inspiring Prizes" on my Working Knowledge blog,

Looking forward to reading your new book!
Andrea Meyer
Working Knowledge