Is Transparency a Recipe for Innovation?


Paper by Dr. Bastiaan Heemsbergen:Innovation is a key driver in organizational sustainability, and yes, openness and transparency are a recipe for innovation. But, according to Tapscott and Williams, “when it comes to innovation, competitive advantage and organizational success, ‘openness’ is rarely the first word one would use to describe companies and other societal organizations like government agencies or medical institutions. For many, words like ‘insular,’ ‘bureaucratic,’ ‘hierarchical,’ ‘secretive’ and ‘closed’ come to mind instead.”1 And yet a few months ago, The Tesla Model S just became the world’s first open-source car. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motor Vehicles, shared all the patents on Tesla’s electric car technology, allowing anyone — including competitors — to use them without fear of litigation. Elon wrote in his post “Yesterday, there was a wall of Tesla patents in the lobby of our Palo Alto headquarters. That is no longer the case. They have been removed, in the spirit of the open source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology.”2
In the public sector, terms such as open government, citizen sourcing, and wiki government are also akin to the notion of open innovation and transparency. As Hilgers and Ihl report, “a good example of this approach is the success of the Future Melbourne program, a Wiki and blog-based approach to shaping the future urban landscape of Australia’s second largest city. The program allowed citizens to directly edit and comment on the plans for the future development of the city. It attracted more than 30,000 individuals, who submitted hundreds of comments and suggestions (futuremelbourne.com.au). Basically, problems concerning design and creativity, future strategy and local culture, and even questions of management and service innovation can be broadcasted on such web-platforms.”3 The authors suggest that there are three dimensions to applying the concept of open innovation to the public sector: citizen ideation and innovation (tapping knowledge and creativity), collaborative administration (user generated new tasks and processes), and collaborative democracy (improve public participation in the policy process)….(More)”.

One Reply to “Is Transparency a Recipe for Innovation?”

  1. We are confusing a few things here. Patent wall worked in the non-global world, but their power vanished in the global one. So the Tesla example just shows that USING patents is better in an open system than a closed one these days. But that has little to do with innovation (the changing of values) and lots with invention (designing a new car).
    The other side of this example is that its really funny to read that the Tesla was build from open source components. That is true, but holds for almost any car in the industry. There are even examples shown how to build a Volkswagen by buying components. The definition of Open Source should therefore be read here is “can any buy it” and not “do we have the drawing/code”. Open Source in many cases means Open SourcING.
    Finally, there is a HUGE difference in the process for innovation in hardware-based product on the one hand and sofware-based and human-based services on the other hand. The former is an Inside-Out Process where the Research and Development team has first to “find” and adopt a new value-system (their beliefs), next invent some new tech and then engineering can create a product wherein the new values are embedded (a potential innovator). Only when the market/users adopt the product innovation starts to take place (and often the value-change in the market/customer is DIFFERENT from that of the R&D team. That leads to both failures (it was an illusion) and successes (they were brilliant ……
    In services innovation, things work outside-in. New services come into being without much help from an R&D (often on the contrary). This doesn’t mean those new services are actually developed. In many occasion a customer comes in, does a request and a few hours/days/months later he or she gets the output of the services process. Well, in many occasions that output more resembles a prototype than a product, but the customer is happy as that output fulfils the needs at hand.
    So in short, OPEN innovation is an oxymoron. There is NO such thing as CLOSED innovation. There is closed INVENTION preceeded by TEAM imagination (wouldn’t it be great if anyone could use …. (note the values here).

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