Man’s best friend


In September 2012, Clayton Christenson, the Harvard Professor especially well known for his work on innovation as creative destruction,  praised the potential of open innovation, but blogged that “scholars (and, I would add, managers) need to be very careful with their definition of what open innovation is …. The benefits of using a precise and specific definition for open innovation [are] that we can more clearly study it and understand its benefits and its limits.”  See more at:


I agree that much can be gained from precision, but believe that there are inherent limits to what can be done now. Most conversations about open innovation today are similar to defining dogs as “man’s best friend.” There is not enough experience or research to support the equivalent of defining dogs as “members of the Canidae family of the mammalian order Carnivora.”  Instead we are trying to understand something like grey wolves, but not exactly grey wolves, seen more and more often around human settlements.


While that’s enough about man’s best friend, my point is that it is impossible to define recent and rapidly evolving human activity with the precision science hopes for. Yet as open innovation efforts proliferate, we can make important steps toward definition. I propose some defining characteristics in a series of further posts that I hope will generate further discussion.


Comments are closed.

The Book

The book Leading Open Innovation describes OI’s search for smart people who might expand the space for innovation.
It reflects international, cross-sector, and transdisciplinary interests among contributors from the United States, Germany, France, Finland, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Tunisia, Austria, and China working in large multinational organizations, academic institutions, or entrepreneurial projects.
They are part of the Peter Pribilla network, which Ralf Reichwald describes at the end of the volume as a point of contact that supports overlapping interests in innovation and leadership.

Twitter Updates