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Book Review: Open Innovation
Jon Lebkowsky, 30 Jul 06

open-innovation.gifOpen Innovation tells how technology research and development, formerly "closed" and handled inside megacompanies like IBM and Xerox, increasingly happens in smaller companies and universities. What he calls "Open Innovation" is typically driven by VC-funded startups that build toward acquisition, a model that was popular through the Internet boom of the 90s, and is still common. Chesbrough's book is a good overview of the history of corporate innovation in the USA, and a good explanation of the closed vs open models for innovation.

Closed innovation gave way to the more open model because the workforce started churning, and it became increasingly difficult to contain the ideas that resulted from the best thinking and experimentation within any one company. There's also been a knowledge sharing movement facilitated by the Internet, and the Open Source movement's commons-based peer production model, which is oddly excluded from Chesbrough's consideration.

This is where I had a problem with the book – it didn't go far enough. The model Chesbrough describes is an extension of the top-down corporate model, failing to acknowledge promising "small is beautiful" emergent approaches to innovation and business. Open source is one example, the bootstrap approach (favored by fast-growing groups like Bootstrap Austin) is another.

I do recommend the book for its value in setting context, but I don't think it's truly worldchanging. We would hope to see Chesbrough or someone follow up with an exploration of smaller, more modular approaches to business development and technology innovation, and business structures that are truly open, transparent, and inclined to balance competition with cooperation.

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Thanks for the helpful book review. This brings up an idea I've been thinking about for a while. Is there a website where books like this could be uploaded and edited wiki-like? Wiki Books, I suppose, but what I was thinking was something where an author could upload something he or she is working on, and the online community could contribute. Maybe online contributors could be noted in final drafts.

Posted by: Lyle Solla-Yates on 1 Aug 06



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