The Future Of Innovation ... Open Innovation & The Citizen Innovator

Mr Dwayne Spradlin

I would like to briefly address wo related topics: open innovation and the Citizen Innovator.

The most successful organizations in the 21st Century will be those that realize that real sustainable advantage is not a product of the inventions themselves, it’s in building organizations that know how to repeatedly harness innovation inside and outside their organizations, and on a global scale, regardless of its source.  We call the practice of systematically supplementing internal innovation efforts with access to the world’s vast reservoirs of creative, intellectual, and inventive talent “Open Innovation”. 

Requiring organizations to think very differently about the innovation process, internal rewards systems, organizational structures, and intellectual property,  this approach represents a step change improvement over the hundred year old innovation status quo of today. 

For businesses burdened by increasingly costly innovation efforts and high failure rates, this means new ideas, faster solutions, and cost efficiencies.  For foundations and government, channeling the world’s innovation capacity towards important problems means an unprecedented opportunity to impact public good. 

Organizations with the courage and discipline to embrace this change will fundamentally change the effectiveness and efficiency of their innovation efforts, some becoming the new innovation leaders in their spaces.  Much more than an extension to the “business as usual” innovation approaches of today, it is in fact a fundamental rethinking of innovation and is vital to all our innovation futures.

This brings me to a term I used earlier this year: the Citizen Innovator. Highly creative and inventive individuals have had monumental impacts throughout history, the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, and Sir Isaac Newton. Often considered giants in their day, these are the archetypal Citizen Innovators, often the beneficiaries of great patronage, with resources and substantial freedom to roam in creative circles, these individuals have inspired many … they were also few in number.

With the convergence of technology (internet, social networking, communications), increases in standards of living and education, and a more global awareness than at any time in history, I believe there are now legions of Citizen Innovators around the world ready, willing, and able to invest their relevant experience, knowledge, creative talents and hunger for problem solving toward the important challenges of our time. Some will engage simply to make a difference, others for financial gains. But make no mistake, they are changing the way we innovate, from corporate research and product development to improving the human condition and reinventing government. This is an empowerment movement and represents the most democratic of ideas: that we as individuals have a necessary and vital role to play in shaping our world – and in some cases an obligation. 

In closing, Open Innovation and Citizen Innovators are principal actors in the structural evolution of innovation as we know it from the status quo of the past to an open, global, and vibrant innovation platform for the future.  Whether it’s the need to get new products to market sooner, improve medical treatments, or address climate change, this approach changes everything.

Article © 2009 Mr Dwayne Spradlin. All rights reserved.

about the author...

Mr Dwayne Spradlin

Mr Dwayne Spradlin

affiliation:   Innocentive

position:  President and CEO

country:  United States

area of interest:  Prize-Based Open Innovation

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