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Open Innovation is like making a sandwich

wazoku Blog 4 Comments

What do you think about when someone asks what open innovation is? There is of course the long winded answer, that says that “open innovation is a paradigm that assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as the firms look to advance their technology”.* Open innovation also presupposes the idea of using or building a collaborative community, that will contribute ideas and solutions to a given challenge.

How would you explain this concept to a child? Certainly if you talk about paradigms and similar concepts it will become too complicated. Today I had the best idea on how to do it: think of how you would go around making a sandwich when you don’t have any money. You need to make a sandwich but you only have the bread, so you’ll be asking others to contribute something to your lunch. Each ingredient and layer on your sandwich will be like the ideas contributed to a challenge. Sometimes on their own they might not be too exciting or even possible but once they are stacked up and put together end up composing a delicious sandwich and at the same time a solution to your problem: your missing lunch!

*From the Wikipedia entry on Open Innovation

Comments 4

  1. A perfect example of how open innovation shouldn’t work. I am hungry, the sandwich maker says, you there give me all your yummy ingredients so that I can make my nice sandwich. They do so in the hope that a few crumbs fall their way, because they are hungry too. But as this story unfolds, they get nothing for their generosity, and the sandwich maker scoffs the lot.

    The story could continue. The next day the sandwich maker was hungry again and only had bread. This time the people that gave him the ingredients before said no because they knew he was mean and greedy.

    The moral of the story is OI has to be a two way process to work. There has to be a reward for contributing to the process, or else why bother?

    ps. the story does say the man has no money, and I do understand that altruism can have its own rewards, but you get my point.

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  2. I might be wrong, but having read through this post I don’t think there was any talk about who actually ate the sandwich. The result from this story was that a sandwich was simply made. The follow up would be what does the sandwich maker do with the sandwich?

    I think riggewelter might have extrapolated too far in suggesting that the person was greedy, mean and ate the sandwich him/her self. The options are:

    a) Share the sandwich and let everyone reap the rewards from a crowd-sauced lunch
    b) Eat the sandwich in this instance but save the recipe and start a sandwich shop so that everyone can enjoy the fruits of the discovery
    c) Eat the sandwich(.)

    The last option could result in disengagement and people deciding that the protagonist doesn’t deserve their ingredients – in that single instance I agree that riggewelter’s point is valid.

  3. Ps. With respect to money; it is a fact of life that using it facilitates the exchange of goods.

    The positive nuance in the story is that ‘if’ the protagonist didn’t have a concept of a sandwich before he/she made it, but did have some money, he/she could have ended up just buying a few bits of bread to fill him/herself up.

    Instead in this story the result was a much tastier sandwich.

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