I attended the launch of our latest report on User-Led Innovation yesterday. The event included contributions from a number of really interesting organisations/communities such as Sibelius, Swapits, and GBADev where it’s the customers/consumers/users that do much of the innovation around their respective product ranges. What is interesting about all of these examples is how people are increasingly giving away their ideas for free, either to a) address a specific need, or b) for fun, or c) for kudos; or for some complex combination of all three.
The traditional approach to innovation is to protect your ideas and create economic value from them. And yet, as access to ideas or information becomes much easier, open and free, it is the networks or communities that will become the bedrock of innovative people and organisations, not the ideas themselves. And it will be our ability, as individuals or organisations, to innovate and create value through our networks and relationships, not so much our ideas.
However the great thing about networks is also their achilles heel. Namely that their value is widely distributed. This means that it is hardly ever in one person or organisation’s interest to organise them. Also, organisations are often wary of facilitating communities as it can be easy to perceive them as abusing the brand or remit of the sponsoring organisation.
Therefore, if you accept some of the above, there is possibly a role for public sector support around more cross-cutting networks, or even a network of existing networks, as others typically don’t have the time, money or incentive to set them up and run them. I think Nesta already does this to a small degree but how could and should we scale this up?