Competing for Contributors in Open Innovation

By • on May 9, 2011

In my last post, I discussed how Open Innovation frames the war for talent.  The role of T-shaped managers was crucial, due to their ability to integrate the ideas and skills of people both inside and outside the organization into useful solutions.  In this post, I consider another prerequisite for effective open innovation: the ability to compete for contributors outside your organization.

Make no mistake about it – external contributors can be the difference between innovation success or failure.  Think back to the 1980s, when Apple’s innovative Macintosh operating system went up against Microsoft’s MS-DOS (and somewhat later, Windows).  Few would argue that the Mac had a superior user interface at the time.  Yet Microsoft clearly won the war to become the standard operating system for desktop computing.

How did this happen?  Much has been written to explain this, but the part I want to consider is Microsoft’s superior ability to attract third party contributors to its OS.  While the Mac had a wicked cool point-and-click user interface, MS-DOS had third party applications like Lotus 123 for spreadsheets, WordPerfect for word processing, Ashton-Tate’s dBase for data bases, and so on.

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Image via flickr.

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