Henry Chesbrough created the theory and coined the term "open innovation" and his insights into open innovation models have restructured research and development and created new landscapes of business development and innovation strategy. Dr. Chesbrough is a professor at the Haas Business School (Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation), UC Berkeley, and executive director for The Center for Open Innovation, which focuses on conducting research, publishing articles and developing teaching materials around open innovation. Professor Chesbrough spoke to ExecEd on the future of open innovation.
ExecEd: How about the future for open innovation? If you had a crystal ball, if you were looking down the road 10, 15, 20 years from now, where do you see it going?
Henry Chesbrough: Let me give you a short-term and a long-term answer. In the short-term, open innovation is moving from collaborating between individual firms or organizations to collaboration throughout an entire ecosystem of companies, developers, third parties, users, suppliers, a very rich, multifaceted thing. This is actually been labeled open innovation 2.0 by the European Commission which has really gotten behind this as part as their policy going forward. In the short-term, it's easy to say because it's already starting to happen. This is where open innovation is going.
In the longer-term, I think open innovation might follow a path like that of the quality revolution. In the 1980s, the US companies woke up to the gap with Japan and how much more reliable many Japanese products were relative to US products, and so US companies really embraced quality as a strategic imperative. They had quality departments, quality organizations, and they embedded in the companies a real need to do this well from the very beginning of the design, not just inspecting at the end of the process.
Today, most of those quality organizations are gone. The thinking is there, but it's now embedded in how the company does business so you no longer need the quality department overseeing all this. That's a possible long-term future for open innovation. Openness is not going to go away, but it may become part of the fabric of the company. Instead of today having open innovation departments and people with titles of manager of open innovation, director of open innovation, and my personal favorite, vice president of open innovation, in 30 years those titles may be gone, those organizations may be gone, and this may just be part of how companies do business.