Why Open Innovation is unstoppable

Henrik Stamm Kristensen

This Ted Talk I post is a bit old, however in my opinion, it remains extremely current. Charles Leadbeater is the author of We-Think: Mass innovation, not mass production: The Power of Mass. In the video, he explains why open innovation is the future. Users and  community’s innovation is unstoppable despite all the obstacles that it finds.

Firstly, he uses the example of mountain bikes to explain how users create a product they wanted 15 years before the big bike companies realized that there was a market for it. That happened, according to Leadbeater, because users had an incentive that big corporations hadn’t.  They were tired of the traditional products they were offered so they decided to create a new one.

This practical case shows that creativity and innovation are not something driven by special people in special places thinking about special ideas, while consumers are passive and just can say yes or no to the invention. According to Leadbeater, innovation doesn’t occur only in the laboratories of large companies or garages. And neither does it arise spontaneously from people whom we consider geniuses. Innovation comes from collaboration and it is the result of a cumulative process.

Traditional labs vs open innovation spaces

He thinks that the traditional vision of big companies, creating places like R&D parks and looking for more special people, has always been wrong. Creativity is highly collaborative and interactive. In addition, he thinks that big corporate structures aren’t taught to foster innovation. Innovation means uncertainty,  not direct profits. He explains that the more radical the innovation, the higher the degree of uncertainty.

Passionate amateurs don’t think in terms of direct profits. Passion moves them. They have the skills, they invest time… and they get results. And this is the potential of Open Innovation: consumption expresses production potential.

These user-innovators don’t think they are doing important stuff or something that matters. But, as consumers, they are creating something they wont. Leadbeater argues that the best competitor against monopolies is consumer driven innovation.  He believes that people are interested in participating and that it will be a huge movement.

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