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Wednesday, April 16 2014 @ 08:16 AM CDT

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Thoughts on Open Innovation

Standards and Society

If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of giants
                                                 Sir Isaac Newton, 1676

H.F. Helmolt (ed.): History of the World. New York, 1901, Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at AustinIf the phrase “open innovation” has a familiar ring, that’s not surprising.  It’s not only a popular buzz phrase, but it has the type of virtuous ring to it that instinctively inspires a favorable reaction.  But like most simple phrases, it intrigues rather than enlightens. For example, is open innovation feasible in all areas of creative, commercial and scientific endeavor? If so, do the rules, challenges and rewards differ from discipline to discipline, and if it’s not universally feasible, why not?

A new free eBook of essays titled Thoughts on Open Innovation explores these issues, and more.

While the concept of open innovation (as demonstrated by the well-known quote of Isaac Newton with which this blog entry began) is at least centuries old, credit for coining the particular phrase is given to Professor Henry Cheesborough, who wrote:

Open innovation is a paradigm that assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as the firms look to advance their technology

But, as a client of mine is fond of observing, that's something that often, "says easy, does hard," and especially so in the case of proprietary vendors, and even academics in the age of patents, university licensing departments, and intense competition for research grants. 

Happily, the benefits of open innovation are increasingly recognized today, in part because the Internet has made it possible for so many to collaborate about so much so easily. Governments (e.g., in the U.K.) in particular are beginning to embrace the concept in areas like open data that hold enormous promise, not only for making progress possible in multiple domains, but also to help create new possibilities for domestic entrepreneurship.

Thoughts on Open Innovation is published by the Openforum Academy, and the essays were contributed by Fellows of the Academy (of which I’m one; my contribution to the book is titled Openness and the Pursuit of Knowledge).  You can find a full list of the Fellows here, and you’ll no doubt recognize some (or many) of them if you’re interested in openness in all of its many forms.

If you scan the index of the book, you’ll find that while the sole focus is openness, the aspects, types and challenges of openness that are explored range widely, from public procurement, to open data, to commercializing open source software, to scientific research, to geolocation, to the struggle to reconcile patent laws with open innovation, and much more.

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The contributors have deep government, non-profit, industry and academic experience in the subject matter, and I think you’ll find that what they have to say is worth considering.

The publisher of the book, the Openforum Academy, is a think tank, “with a broad aim to examine the paradigm shift towards openness in computing that is currently underway, and to explore how this trend is changing the role of computing in society.”

The Academy is affiliated with Openforum Europe, and as the name suggests, the specific policies and laws that OFE and the Academy concern themselves with are those that take shape in the EU and its constituent nations. But the issues that OFE and the Academy explore are universally applicable, and that’s particularly true in the case of this book.

A print copy of the book is available for $12.99 at Lulu, and the eBook version is available for free in both PDF/US Trade Book Format at the Academy site, where you can also download a free copy of The First Openforum Academy Conference Proceedings, a collection of research papers on another ten intriguing aspects of openness and its relationship to the world around us.


Available Now for $2.99 or less

at Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble (and in ePub and PDF formats at GooglePlay)

And perhaps I should mention one other thing: like all other Academy publications, the contents of Thoughts on Open Innovation are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0).

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