From the mythical days of lone inventors Ben Franklin, Wright Brothers, Edison, Alexander Bell etc. to mammoth R&D labs of large corporation like Xerox, IBM a single entity whether an individual or corporation could "innovate" if it owned the invention.
But things are changing as barriers to acquiring knowledge across the globe fall, ability of anybody anywhere to create new connections, new knowledge and hence "invent" constantly rises. Invention always a stochastic process is not something large R&D even with billions of dollars can now hope to control and own.
As Chesbrough points out "the old 'closed innovation' model-vertically integrated research-and-development departments that develop technology in-house for the sole use of their corporate parent-is becoming obsolete "
“Open innovation is the use of purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation, and expand the markets for external use of innovation, respectively. [This paradigm] assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as they look to advance their technology.”
Invention is not the sole domain of a few subject matter experts, scientists, or technical folks; users and customers are also participating as individuals and more importantly co-create their experiences as part of communities.
P&G gets this phenomenon and is captured in its Connect & Develop Innovation Model
Open Source movement in software is the most visible example of this paradigm. Ron Goldman & Richard P. Gabriel's book "Innovation happens elsewhere" explore this phenomenon. But their book should have been more appropriatly titled "Invention happens elsewhere, but Innovation (hence profits) should happen here"
So how should firms and their R&D departments respond and see this paradigm as an unprecedent opportunity to deliever superior experience to their customers.
Coming up...stay tuned...