Thursday, 11 February 2010

Cornerstones of an Innovation Society (Part III): Transparency and Collaboration

The times where innovation took place by one great mind sitting quietly in some ivory tower and inventing great things are long gone. Team work is essential – we all know about that. But also team work is not sufficient anymore. The complexities of our world are so manifold and we are unlikely to always have the full knowledge required for developing new things ready at hand in house.

Crowd sourcing is important. Let others participate, invite the crowd to bring in ideas and assets. President Barroso stressed this in his speech at last autumn's innovation summit where he stated that “crowd-sourcing and co-creation are now the order of the day”. And he concluded that EU policies need to reflect that, take that up. This is what open innovation means.

For successfully operating in this new environment it is essential that we practice transparency, that we are willing to open up things to others. And it is important that all operate with a collaborative spirit.

I was recently involved with some co-editors in the development of some interesting concept paper. While I was happy to share every single development step with the full group allowing them to give their feedback anytime, some of my co-editors were strongly against such a practice being afraid that this would confuse the bigger group.

Transparency and collaboration are, to a large extend, a matter of mind-set. Those who drive a project need to be ready to receive input from the outside anytime without feeling distorted and without much sensibility. And those who bring in ideas need to be aware that they contribute to work-in-progress, that they are invited and welcome to contribute. They need to apply creativity rather than criticism. Where such a mind-set is not given, collaboration runs the risk to fail and slip into competition, cantankerousness and fight. And, of course, successful collaboration means to be willing to derive consensus and being able to accept compromises.

Now, if I look at standardisation, transparency and collaboration are, of course, essential for the process of standards development. There are some organisations, like W3C, OASIS or the IETF, that have established exemplary processes for transparency and collaboration – powered by modern communication technologies and including Web 2.0 functionality.

It is pretty obvious: the more the trend for societies and businesses is towards collaboration and crowd-sourcing, the more will such elements have to be acknowledged and integrated by standards organisations, companies, governments, etc. And those who are best in operating in such a new environment will be most successful, most innovative on the long run. 

See also my blog entries on
Cornerstones of an Innovation Society (Part I): Openness 
Cornerstones of an Innovation Society (Part II): Embracing Change

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