Technovation 31 (2011) 586–597
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How do large multinational companies implement open innovation? Letizia Mortara n, Tim Minshall
Centre for Technology Management, Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge, Department of Engineering, Alan Reece Building, 17 Charles Babbage Road, Cambridge CB3 0FS, UK
a r t i c l e i n f o
a b s t r a c t
Available online 28 June 2011
This paper addresses a major gap in reported research on open innovation (OI): how do companies implement open innovation? To answer this question a sample of 43 cross-sector ﬁrms were reviewed for their OI implementation approaches. The study analyzed how ﬁrms moved from practising closed to open innovation, classifying the adoption path according to the impetus for the adoption of the OI paradigm and the coordination of the OI implementation. The way ﬁrms adopted OI was found to vary according to (1) their innovation requirements, (2) the timing of the implementation and (3) their organizational culture.
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Open innovation (OI)
Open innovation implementation
The adoption of the ‘Open innovation’ (OI) paradigm – in which organizations make use of internal and external resources to drive their innovation processes – is considered by many contemporary ﬁrms as a way to enhance innovation capabilities. Despite the growing interest in OI there are still many unanswered questions. One of the most pressing for academics and practitioners alike relates to how OI can be implemented (Gassmann, 2006). The
literature concerning the adoption of the OI paradigm by companies is growing fast and many journals have recently hosted special issues leading to the publication of useful reviews of OI literature in the innovation management domain (e.g. van de Vrande et al., 2010; Huizingh, 2011; Lichtenthaler, 2011; Enkel et al., 2009; Giannopoulou et al., 2010). Despite the attention it has attracted, there are still unanswered questions regarding the OI phenomenon and in particular on how companies moved to adopt it. There are still only a few studies looking into the ‘‘process that leads to open innovation’’ (Huizingh, 2011), a point taken up by Lichtenthaler (2011), according to whom further investigation into OI adopter archetypes is needed.
This paper addresses this gap in reported research on OI
(Gassmann, 2006; Chiaroni et al., 2010, 2011). We reviewed 43 large multinational companies in a wide set of sectors, using an inductive approach. Following the principles of ‘engaged scholarship’ we alternated case studies and focus groups in which practitioners discussed OI implementation. We then adopted a
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URL: http://www.ifm.eng.cam.ac.uk (L. Mortara).
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taxonomical approach to analyze the path taken by ﬁrms as they moved from closed to open innovation practice; our study was guided by evolutionary theories of organizational change and involved analysis of the coordination mechanism of OI activities within ﬁrms.
On the basis of evidence from our sample, we identiﬁed four archetypical approaches to the adoption of OI: ad-hoc practice, precursor OI adopters, OI conscious adopters and OI communities of practice. We identiﬁed issues that may impact on the OI adoption path.
Firstly, there seemed to be two key drivers for OI implementation: ﬁrms with less turbulent environments focus primarily on inbound OI activities, whilst environmental uncertainty and the need for ambidexterity (Tushman and O’Reilly III, 2002) led ﬁrms to develop both inbound and outbound...
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