This past Monday, I had the pleasure of teaching innovators and managers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center about Henry Chesbrough’s concepts of open innovation, Andrew Hargadon’s thoughts about how breakthroughs happen, and Fuentek’s approaches to collaborative R&D and technology transfer. One of the concepts I presented really resonated with the attendees, so I thought I’d share it here.
First a quick tutorial for those of you who don’t know. In Open Innovation, Chesbrough talked about bringing in the best ideas from anywhere (notably from outside your R&D organization) to not only generate the solution for your particular market/application, but also identify new markets for technology commercialization, including licensing opportunities. In Breakthroughs, Hargadon discusses innovation as a recombination of objects, ideas, and people, where “technology brokering” occurs through the forming and breaking down of various networks of those objects, ideas, and people. Both of these thought leaders have some great concepts that are applicable to NASA and many other organizations. (Check out this article in Kennedy Tech Transfer News.)
But some people get hung up on the concepts of open innovation and collaborative R&D. (I’ve blogged previously about overcoming the barriers to open innovation.) So think of it this way…
Innovation is a recipe for a meal, and different meals call for different recipes.
Sometimes the recipe involves procuring off-the-shelf products and making minor modifications. When the timeline is tight and an adequate (or close-to-adequate) solution is available—like when you find out at 3 p.m. you’re having a dozen dinner guests—you buy what you need and tweak it as needed.
Another recipe is closed innovation, where internal-only resources are used to develop the solution to the technical challenge. This is similar to a Rachel Ray 30-minute meal. You pull together ingredients that you have on hand to produce the meal.
Then there’s open innovation, which is like embarking on a Julia Child recipe. Just as she introduced us to cooking in new ways, open innovation challenges us to embrace new sources of technologies and capabilities. The result is not just a nourishing meal, but an experience that feeds many of our senses. In open innovation, the collaboration with external entities results in solutions that are far broader than the initial target. This actually transcends open innovation into what we call Symbiotic Innovation.
Let this cooking metaphor simmer for a while and let me know what you think.