The Future Of Open Innovation

Ten years from now, what will we think of Open Innovation?

Will we think about it at all?  Open Innovation (OI) is the big buzzword of the past few years.  We can now see companies benefitting from this new way of thinking (and other less intelligent companies that have been keen to take up the label but haven’t really changed).  OI has a lot to offer but for most companies it’s still early days – how will things change by 2021?  Here are three things I believe we will see happening:

Collaboration knowhow:

Alongside general crowdsourcing, companies will become more adept at developing a range of targeted communities of stakeholders that meet the needs of different innovation challenges.  They’ll learn to pick’n’mix expertly from degrees of openness, degrees of focus, and different participation methods – aligning each programme more effectively with their immediate objectives and their overall business strategy.

A big learning curve for legal counsel:

OI demands new business models, as participants explore the best ways to collaborate and share both IP and rewards.  This need not involve more risk but it may involve different risk.  Companies need to maintain flexible and intelligent advice on IP and contracts to make sure that new opportunities are not lost.  For example, we should expect to see more collaborative platforms like Forum Virium in Helsinki, where large and small digital companies share research and work with end-users to develop new services.

Integration of OI:

I think there are two ways this could go.  We will see OI become more ubiquitous until it simply becomes part of innovation generally, and we will no longer feel the need always to label part of that activity as ‘open’ – it will just be seen as innovation as normal.   But there’s another way OI could become more integrated – we could see the adoption of OI practices and methods into other parts of the business, not just new product development.  This ‘Open Everything’ approach could for example see the OI-style ‘collaboration of equal partners’ being translated into other functions – such as logistics, recruitment, or plant and facilities, where it could be just as successful at reducing risks and costs.  Taken further: could that eventually lead to large corporate networks with vertical and cross-sector integration, like a new form of Japanese keiritsu?

I’m sure there will be other major changes for Open Innovation – and for the future of innovation more generally.  Any comments on all this are very welcome!

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