Jacques Bughin, Michael Chui, and Brad Johnson, McKinsey Quarterly
The creation of knowledge, products, and services by online communities of companies and consumers is still in its earliest stages. Who knows where it will lead?
For most companies, innovation is a proprietary activity conducted largely inside the organization in a series of closely managed steps. Over the last decade, however, a few consumer product, fashion, and technology businesses have been opening up the product-development process to new ideas hatched outside their walls—from suppliers, independent inventors, and university labs.
Executives in a number of companies are now considering the next step in this trend toward more open innovation. For one thing, they are looking at ways to delegate more of the management of innovation to networks of suppliers and independent specialists that interact with each other to cocreate products and services. They also hope to get their customers into the act. If a company could use technology to link these outsiders into its development projects, could it come up with better ideas for new products and develop those ideas more quickly and cheaply than it can today? Suppose that a wireless carrier, say, were to orchestrate the design of a new generation of mobile devices through an open network of interested customers, software engineers, and component suppliers, all working interactively with one another.