Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing : Book Review.

Cover of A Guide To Innovation And Crowdsourcing By Paul Sloane

Struggling to differentiate your crowdsourcing from your customer co-creation? Grappling with protecting versus managing intellectual property(IP)?

Don’t worry, help is at hand in the form of a new book.

Comprehensive and practical help! That’s our overall verdict on Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing, edited by Paul Sloane.

If you’ve been hearing the open innovation (OI) buzzwords and are interested to know more, or perhaps are looking to assess this approach for your organisation, this title is a great place to start.

Since Henry Chesborough.

It was of course, Henry Chesborough (who also wrote the foreward to Sloane’s book) who first coined the term open innovation in his book of the same title.

Eight years has passed since then, and a diverse range of companies have experimented with the approach. Technology platforms to support OI have been developed, and there is now a lot of new learning to share.

Paul Sloane has done an excellent editing job. The twenty five chapters are each authored by different figures from the OI world. These include consultants, senior figures from industry and academics.  A good number of them are prolific contributors to the innovation blogosphere. Their knowledge and experience covers OI in a broad range of industries and sectors, and encompasses both b2b and b2c. This diversity enriches the book and ensures that it will have relevance to a broad audience of innovation practitioners and management readers.

A Smooth Read.

Bearing in mind the differing backgrounds of the contributors – which likely influence both their approach to the topic and also their writing style, the book is a remarkably smooth read. The chapters from the academics are not overly weighed down with models and research paper references. Indeed, they integrate well with the chapters from industry figures, which include honest reflection on real world experiences along with the quantitative results of their programs.

Despite the variety of authorship, Sloane has ensured there is very little duplication of content, which further strengthens readability.

Chapters are fairly short but each packs a punch with insights and learnings.

The book starts off by defining open innovation and crowdsourcing before moving on to core topics including developing OI strategy, leadership issues, soft skills, crowdsourcing, IP and cultural issues for organisations. There are plenty of good examples in many of the chapters from both b2b and b2c businesses. In addition, some whole chapters are devoted to case studies including the T-shirt manufacturer Intuit and LG electronics.

Surely one core audience for the book must be managers in companies where there is a well designed, effective innovation process that has been in place for some time. Success with the current process may have meant the innovation managers have not yet explored the open innovation space in much depth. Innovation activities might be delivering results but might there be further potential for such companies? What’s possible in collaborative innovation has changed remarkably in the last five years. Web 2.0 technologies and new OI approaches might just compliment the current processes and deliver improvements in understanding customer needs or in delivering new technologies in shorter timescales.

"Smart Failing".

OI can offer enormous benefits, but it is no panacea. The distinguished list of authors have witnessed not just the success of OI but also have learned lessons from times when teams have been challenged by OI. If, as is often vaunted, much of innovation is about learning from our failures then we need to hear about this. Stefan Lindberg offers some insightful thinking around the philosophy of ‘fail fast and fail often’ or ‘smart failing’.

My one concern about OIAC is that the whole space of crowdsourcing and customer co-creation is moving fast at the moment. The landscape is changing and a danger must be that such a book becomes outdated quickly. Currently, there are still high levels of engagement in innovation communities and many people are willing to contribute significant amounts of their time and expertise to crowdsourcing projects for relatively little financial reward.

As more companies tap into these newly reachable resources, it is likely that the attitudes of contributors may change. How might this impact upon the OI opportunity in general, and crowdsourcing initiatives in particular?

Having said that, there is plenty in this book about shifting the cultural mindset within organisations to exploit better the opportunities  of OI. It is likely that companies will be grappling with these issues for many years to come and that will ensure that this book remains a useful guide for some time.

Anatellô score as a tool to assist with innovation and growth 4/5

A Guide To Innovation And Crowdsourcing, edited by Paul Sloane is published by Kogan Page 217 p

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