Guest lecture by Harvard professor Karim Lakhani on open innovation

I had the good fortune to be invited to a guest lecture at the Entrepreneurship and Small Business Research Institute by Harvard Business School professor Karim Lakhani. Mr Lakhani’s early research on InnoCentive has been paramount in my own research on open innovation and innovation marketplaces, so this was a bit of unanticipated ambrosia on my behalf. The content was as always very enlightening and for the layman this must have been quite an eye-opening session. Mr Lakhani gave us a real dig into the foundation of innovation contests and some of his work with the crowdsourcing platform Topcoder and NASA.

In the afternoon I had an unexpected encounter with mr Lakhani when visiting the Swedish Agency for Innovation Systems (VINNOVA) to present a research project. He was there visiting some former colleagues, so we ended up having a nice cup of coffee and discussed the collaboration perspective of innovation marketplaces. The focal point of the discussion was that innovation contests almost always are conducted in such a way that the innovators/problem solvers have to compete for the reward provided by the problem provider, while simultaneously we know that greater levels of innovation are achieved when people collaborate rather than compete. So how could it be possible to have the problem solving competitors collaborate instead to come up with even better solutions in the contests than they would individually? My viewpoint is that the reward system need to support early exposure to some fraction of your thoughts to the problem solving community. The incentive would be for collaboration to increase the likelihood of winning the contest. (This builds on the hypothesis that most people would rather take 50% of a win over 100% of a loss. I also assumed rational decision making, which is of course not always the case..) Currently these sorts of structures are not implemented in any of the platforms and would need some reconstruction. Anyway, we didn’t come to a conclusion during our coffee and apparently there are some more research to be done here. 😉

The lecture is still available to be viewed on ESBRI’s website here. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did!