Managerial practices for open innovation collaboration: Authoring the spaces "in-between"
Open innovation was introduced in 2003 as a new business model for how to transfer ideas or competence across organizational boundaries. Making this shift from closed to open innovation processes is argued to offer the possibility of creating and developing technology, services and processes in new ways. However, many organizations are still not entirely confident and comfortable in these “open” collaborations and previous research on inter-organizational collaboration indicates a high risk of failure. As open innovation collaboration continues to increase in popularity among organizations, one particular issue needs to be further explored to ensure a greater chance of success - management. Opening up the borders of an organization and the innovation process infers a type of “post managerial environment”, where conventional steering and managerial tools no longer apply, and traditional management theories do not provide much guidance. Although open innovation scholars have produced a steadily increasing amount of research, investigating various aspects of open innovation, managerial issues are still little explored. This thesis seeks to explore and envision a concept of open innovation management and provide a more profound understanding of the managerial practices related to open innovation collaboration.
Theory and practice related to managing open innovation collaboration is extended in this thesis by means of an action research project involving a 4-year qualitative case study. Such a research design is argued to fit with the exploratory aim of this thesis. The empirical setting is a long-term open innovation collaboration called SAFER, involving 26 partners from industry, academia and society. This setting is interesting as SAFER represents a remarkable type of open innovation actor with its own proprietary vision and emphasis on joint knowledge creation together with its partners and it provided ample opportunities to study the complex and dynamic nature of open innovation in practice and especially managerial practices.
The findings from the SAFER case show that achieving collaborative advantage in open innovation collaboration is not easy, due to a number of contextual challenges that needs to be managed. Furthermore, the findings indicate that the open innovation arena director needs a range of practices that require perpetual attention from a meticulous and persevering manager. Expectations and intentions need to be adjusted as managers interact with people they do not have vicarious liability for. Additionally, it appears that managers need to appreciate and embrace disorder and unpredictability that comes with the open innovation context, which is important, as it implies a fundamental shift from striving for control over people and resources to having control in the environment.
These findings allow this thesis to extend and deepen the theoretical as well as practical insights into managerial practices for open innovation in a novel and distinctive manner. This thesis contributes to the literature on open innovation by outlining of a concept of open innovation management, inviting to think differently about management, where a core aspect is balancing a state of bounded instability. Managing is considered as a way of being and relating, and the manager could be described as an author of the organizational landscape, taking part in constructing identities, realities and meanings in the open innovation context. The thesis, furthermore, contributes to managerial practice through a thorough illustration of practices, which may serve as inspiration for discussion among practitioners in similar complex environments, where knowing how to manage the “in- between” is essential.
longitudinal case study