Governance, Open Source

Innovation Ecosystems

With my recent open source work I was motivated to look at the results of an IBM Academy of Technology innovation ecosystems study I was involved in back in 2008.

Innovation ecosystems are multi-organization ventures that seek to collectively innovate to change their industry.   In the study we focused on successful ecosystems and looked for the common patterns that make them work.

We looked at a variety of ecosystems structures including those with one dominant leader and many smaller partners as well as more peer-to-peer ecosystems.  The case studies came from different geographic regions and industries.

Despite their differences, the success factors of these innovation ecosystems were surprisingly similar:

  • Equity within the ecosystem – mutual benefit being derived by all participants, in line with their contribution.
  • Active engagement from all participants, focused towards a common goal and based on trust.
  • Intellectual Property (IP) policy and other intellectual capital ownership issues negotiated and agreed from the inception of the ecosystem.
  • Adequate resources within each partner to enable them to deliver on their promises.
  • The correct mix of skills across the participants to cover all aspects of the ecosystem’s mission.

Each of these elements need to be present to first create the level of trust necessary to collaborate and then provide the right mix of resources to make progress as a team.

When I look at open source projects, organizations such as the Linux Foundation and the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) help to create the right intellectual property sharing basis for an innovation ecosystem.  They provide basic infrastructure for collaboration and encourage practices that create fair engagement.   The individual project can then focus on their goals, skills, resources needed to deliver their dreams.

Photo: Stromboli viewed from Lipari