Open innovation reading list

Open innovation reading list

10 articles, chapters, and research papers that have informed our approach

Open innovation isn’t new — governments have been using prize competitions for centuries — but the field has only recently been studied in earnest. Henry Chesbrough defined “open innovation” in 2003 and WIRED editors Jeff Howe and Mark Robinson coined the term “crowdsourcing” in 2005. Since then, scholars and practitioners have published numerous books, papers, and articles exploring this new way of working.

While producing our own report, the State of Open Innovation, we found that organizations have evolving perspectives on open innovation — and not everyone sees crowdsourcing, prize competitions, hackathons, data jams, and open science the same way. But one thing is certain: open innovation is here to stay. Bidirectional flows of information create value for multiple parties, and that’s why open innovation is so powerful. When executed well, everyone can win.

We’ve curated a selection of articles, chapters, and research papers that have informed our approach to open innovation. We’d love to hear about your own favorite open innovation resources — email to share your reading recommendations.

1. The Principles of Distributed Innovation

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, 2007

Harvard’s Karim R. Lakhani and InnoCentive’s Jill A. Panetta explained that organizations adopting or creating distributed innovation systems “must be prepared to acknowledge the locus of innovation to be outside the boundaries of the focal organization. And this will require a fundamental reorientation of views about incentives, task structure, management, and intellectual property.”

2. Philanthropists and Governments Make Prizes Count

McKinsey & Company, 2009

McKinsey studied the use of prizes to drive innovation in the social sector and found that “prizes are a unique and powerful tool that should be in the basic toolkit of many of today’s philanthropists.”

3. The Market for Open Innovation

RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey, 2013

RWTH Aachen University’s Kathleen Diener and Frank T. Piller conducted “a market study of intermediaries, brokers, platforms and facilitators helping organizations to profit from open innovation and customer co-creation.” They found that the maturing market for open innovation demonstrated “a strong demand for open innovation services.”

4. Using the Crowd as an Innovation Partner

Harvard Business Review, 2013

Harvard’s Karim R. Lakhani and Northeastern University’s Kevin J. Boudreau identified “when crowds tend to outperform the internal organization and, equally important, when they don’t,” and translated their findings into “guidance on choosing the best form of crowdsourcing for a given situation.”

5. Explicating Open Innovation: Clarifying an Emerging Paradigm for Understanding Innovation

New Frontiers in Open Innovation, 2014

A decade after he defined the term “open innovation,” Henry Chesbrough further clarified the concept “as a distributed innovation process based on purposively managed knowledge flows across organizational boundaries, using pecuniary and non-pecuniary mechanisms in line with the organization’s business model.”

6. Open Innovation and External Sources of Innovation

Journal of Translational Medicine, 2018

A research paper from Alexander Schuhmacher, Oliver Gassmann, Nigel McCracken, and Markus Hinder examined the opportunity to “fuel research and development pipelines and enhance decision making” in health and pharma.

7. How Universities Are Tackling Society’s Grand Challenges

Scientific American, 2018

Michelle Popowitz, Executive Director for UCLA Grand Challenges, and Cristin Dorgelo, President and CEO of the Association of Science-Technology Centers, shared highlights from their report on university-led grand challenges and identified “extensive opportunities for collaboration” with nonprofits, government, and the private sector.

8. Scaling Up Policy Innovations in the Federal Government

Issues in Science and Technology, 2018

NASA’s Jenn Gustetic shared “lessons from the trenches” on scaling open innovation in large bureaucratic organizations. Jenn has written extensively about outcome-driven open innovation at NASA, including the Asteroid Grand Challenge, as well as how open innovation expands access to innovation from a policy perspective.

9. Open Innovation for Impact: Designing Prize Competitions for Outcome

Perspectives on Impact: Leading Voices On Making Systemic Change in the Twenty-First Century, 2019

So what makes for a good impact prize competition? Luminary Labs CEO Sara Holoubek’s chapter used case studies to illustrate three contributing factors: clearly defining the problem to be solved, investing in challenge design, and providing solvers with the resources required to close the gap between concept and viability.

10. The Promise of Incentive Prizes

Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2019

The MacArthur Foundation’s Jeff Ubois interviewed Schmidt Futures’ Thomas Kalil about “how calls to solve big problems through competitions can, when done right, galvanize innovation.”

Read more: Our open innovation page features a curated selection of news, insights, and case studies

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Sara Holoubek
Founding Partner and CEO
Jessica Hibbard
Head of Content & Community