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Introducing the Open Innovation 100

Posted by: Helen Walters on December 30, 2009

A recent post entitled “Is Open Innovation Over?” attracted a fair bit of attention on this blog. My colleague Michael Arndt, reporting from the Open Innovation Summit in Florida, chatted with an innovation consultant who dubbed the concept “yesterday’s idea”. Not so fast, cried a lot of our readers, including Roland Harwood, who has spent the past three years developing open innovation programs at NESTA (the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts) in the U.K.

I met Roland a year or so ago at a NESTA event in London, and we caught up on the phone just before the holidays. In particular, we spoke about the Open 100, a competition he and his team have launched to “celebrate the power of openness and mass collaboration” in business. (See below.)

We also touched on why Harwood thinks it’d be no bad thing if we all stop using the term “open innovation” altogether. “It’s over-hyped and has been used and misused,” he said bluntly. “But the trends that underpin it are only going to increase.” And then he said something which to my mind hits the nail of so many innovation-related problems smack bang on the head: “Open innovation is being prioritized at a senior level in organizations. Leaders like its promise of creating value quicker, cheaper, faster,” said Harwood. “But it’s the middle managers and heads of departments who have the responsibility for implementing this. They’re struggling for the right processes and business models and they don’t know where to start. That’s where the gap is. The strategic argument has been won; now it’s a pragmatic challenge.” That struck a real chord for me as one of the major challenges for companies looking to implement a grand new innovation plan. The practice is always so much more difficult than the theory.

Anyway, back to the Open 100, which Harwood says came about as a result of hearing so many people wondering who was actually making a go of this lovely-sounding idea of open innovation. “We got the same old examples of P&G, Spinbrush, the Swiffer or IBM, but there are tons of other examples out there, from multinational companies to interesting small companies, all opening up their processes and businesses in different ways and creating substantial value as a result,” he says. The Open 100 aims to collect and celebrate these companies (anyone can nominate a suitable firm) and the winners will be announced in February at a conference to be held at NESTA in London. There’s no prize as such, though the Guardian’s a media sponsor, so some chance for winners to get a media splash.

Reader Comments

Erik Micheelsen

January 5, 2010 1:39 AM

It's true that Open Innovation is yesterdays idea. I'd have to say the same thing is true regarding Co-creation. But it's only today that we are beginning to have the kind of web based tools that allow, enough people to work together, fast enough and with a whole new mindset. Open Innovation and Co-creation doesn't mean the same today that it did yesterday. Also, today, you get to have A LOT of people innovate together with you. That was certainly not the case yesterday. The words are the same, but the meaning and practice are very different.

David Simoes-Brown

January 5, 2010 5:48 AM

The only think that's over about open innovation is the hype. Reality is indeed kicking in as Roland suggests. Here's a recent question from the 'Open Innovation Discussion Group' on Linked In as an example: "When a company evaluates a technology or product from an external provider for a possible license or acquisition, who should pay for this work...the "buyer" or the "seller"?". Good question. This is the appropriate level of debate for a maturing methodology.

Chris Townsend

January 5, 2010 8:00 AM

In my mind, there are two very important points here:

1. "the strategic argument has been won"
2. now it's "a pragmatic challenge" for the middle managers

Therein lies the crux. And it's great to hear someone point out that the term Open Innovation is over-hyped and (I might add) often mis-applied in practice.

My hope is that this signifies we've turned a corner -- and that starting in 2010 the "innovation chatter" in the blogosphere transitions from visionary evangelism toward greater emphasis on in-the-trenches pragmatism. The timing feels right to me.


January 5, 2010 9:02 AM

An interesting idea and some intriguing nominations so far, but nominations so far have been fairly formal - would be intrigued as to where the internet would come in the competition!

Roland Harwood

January 5, 2010 10:22 AM

Interesting discussion so far and I'm delighted that my chat with Helen has prompted further discussion.

Anyway I'd go so far as to say that the principals underpinning go back to the 1960's (at least) but as Erik says the tools are only just becoming available for it to become a mainstream, rather than marginal, busienss strategy.

I like Chris's point about pragmatism too. That's where the need is.

Peter - re where the internet would come, the competition is designed to find organisations or businesses that have embraced openness and so I would say the internet is a platform or technology upon many (if not all) of those nomitated companies are based, not an entry in it's own right.

And David - I agree that's a good question but what do you think is the answer? Buyer or seller?

Andrew Tan

January 5, 2010 8:11 PM

I'm actually glad that open innovation is perceived by some as yesterday's idea. In fact I'm even more glad that open innovation has been over-hyped, used and misused.

I actually feel that it would be a bad thing if we stopped using the term "open innovation" altogether. Because if that happens, then we have to start all over again by first coining up a new term, defining it, explaining it, publicizing it, over-hyping it, etc. Most ideas have to go through this path as it matures.

So yes, I’m glad that open innovation is where it is now because that means we can move on and really focus on the pragmatic part of open innovation and help it to really mature.

Nick Corston

January 7, 2010 6:33 AM

Ha ha - Open Innovation over hyped? Maybe but who cares. I remember the same debate over the use of the web2.0 label as it if was yesterday (err, it was?).

It's usually only purist, academic types in ivory towers who make such claims and are keen to rush on to or invent the next big thing while the rest of the world is still trying to piece together what the hell they meant let alone implement it.

Sure, there's a conference circuit for the next big thing but there's also a corporate world full of ordinary people just desperately trying to align their organisation's myriad of stakeholders to work openly together within their own four walls, or possibly beyond by collaborating with consumers or (heaven forbid) other corporations (or is that Open Innovation 2.0 ! ;-)

One things for sure they know they need to innovate through the current quagmire to keep their brands and businesses relevant, fresh and IN business.

Open Innovation does what is says on the tin and is a flag we can all rally round. It works for me.


January 8, 2010 6:43 AM

Open Innovation is timeless and increasing in importance and practice.. I think it may continue even into the next millennium. Thus there's no such thing as it being yesterday's ideas as long as human beings with brains exist.


January 14, 2010 2:19 PM

I think "Open" is the way to attract more attention. When it is ready to make some money, those companies will close the door.
Macche Corp.

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