Wednesday, March 13, 2013

London: The End of Ownership — Serendipity Lab

London: The End of Ownership — Serendipity Lab

London: The End of Ownership

Last week, Yulia and I were invited by 100%Open to join their Spring Union Network event at the National Theatre in London. It was great! The Serendipity Machine really landed in the UK, we had great conversations and there are quite a few things coming out of this trip.
At the National Theatre I talked about ownership in relation to owning the sources of innovation. Open Innovation is the method organizations use in order to distribute ownership of the sources of innovation. Because they know that intellectual capital itself is too distributed to be held by one organization alone. What open innovation does is designing a transactional space where the communication that is supposed to lead to innovation is regulated by IP-licenses and contracts and so on. 
Open Innovation is absolutely a step forward. However, it is somewhat in conflict with the crux of recent innovation research. Let me put it this way: open innovation is in conflict with the water cooler.
What do I mean by that? The water cooler stands for informality and openness, for the free exchange of ideas. It iconizes a space where people slip out of their mechanistic corporate personality back into the authenticity of their own personality. Where they become human again. 
And as humans they share, exchange, encounter each other in such a way that the stuff out of which innovation is made emerges: Serendipity. And this is exactly the reason why innovation experts get so excited about it. Because water coolers are veritable serendipity machines.
The question though is: When it comes to innovation policy, should organizations rely on a kitchen appliance? Of course not. This is why they embrace open innovation.
But what if you would turn the openness of the water cooler conversation into a systematic approach of open innovation proper. If you really substantially bought into the idea of the end of ownership with regard to something as important as innovation this is what you would have to do. You would have to turn your organization into a serendipity machine.
Herein, we think, lies the main challenge organizations are facing today. London seemed to get it. Are you?

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