Monthly Archives: March 2009

Interactive innovation – Three types of innovators

No question: Open Innovation is one of the most – if not the most important trend – in innovation management. Listen to your customers, encourage them to become part of the innovation process: Firms are ready to tackle the challenge of “moving from good to great” innovators – with the help of their customers. Fascinating research has been done is these field by authors such as MIT Professor Eric von Hippel or Henry Chesbrough (Haas School of Business, University of California Berkeley).

But, is open innovation really interactive innovation? Does it aim to integrate, to actively encourage the interaction among the overall innovative potential of an organization? Intrigued by this question, our research focusses on interactive innovation as the explicit integration of three types of innovators in the innovation process: First, the well-known, well studied core inside innovators, i.e. the R&D departments of organizations. Second, the outside innovators – the customers, users, suppliers.

But then, there is a third group of innovators in the innovation-system of an organization. You know what we mean? No? What’s about yourself? Aren’t you an innovator? Have you never ever thought about how things could be done differently in your organisation? How products or services provided by your organization as well as processes could become more innovative? Make a distinction?

Well, the third type of innovator that defines interactive innovation, are the employees within the organization, what we call the peripheral inside innovators. They know what needs to be done. They have ideas that could become radical innovation. Take for instance the bubble gum success story- the innovator: not the R&D department; not the customer: it was the peripheral inside innovator Walter E. Diemer.

In 1928, bubble gum was invented by a man named Walter E. Diemer. Here’s what Walter Diemer, the inventor himself, said about it just a year or two before he died: “It was an accident.” “I was doing something else,” Mr. Diemer explained, “and ended up with something with bubbles.” And history took one giant pop forward. What Mr. Diemer was supposed to be doing, back in 1928, was working as an accountant for the Fleer Chewing Gum Company in Philadelphia; what he wound up doing in his spare time was playing around with new gum recipes. But this latest brew of Walter Diemer’s was ‑ unexpectedly, crucially ‑ different. It was less sticky than regular chewing gum. It also stretched more easily. Walter Diemer, 23 years old, saw the bubbles. He saw the possibilities. One day he carried a five-pound glop of the stuff to a grocery store; it sold out in a single afternoon. Before long, the folks at Fleer were marketing Diemer’s creation and Diemer himself was teaching cheeky salesmen to blow bubbles, to demonstrate exactly what made this gum different from all other gums. The only food coloring in the factory was pink. Walter used it. That is why most bubble gum today’s pink. Gilbert Mustin, President of Fleer named the gum Dubble Bubble and it controlled the bubble-gum market unchallenged for years, at least until Bazooka came along to share the wealth. Walter Diemer stayed with Fleer for decades, eventually becoming a senior vice president. He never received royalties for his invention, his wife told the newspapers, but he didn’t seem to mind; knowing what he’d created was reward enough. Sometimes he’d invite a bunch of kids to the house and tell them the story of his wonderful, accidental invention. Then he’d hold bubble-blowing contests for them. Source:

Let’s summarize: Interactive innovation brings together the three types of innovators in the innovation-system of an organization: core inside innovators, peripheral inside innovators and outside innovators.

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Organizing for open innovation: Assessing the interplay of different types of innovators

In this working paper we discuss how social integration mechanisms influence whether or not a firm decides to integrate a particular type of innovator. Also, we show the crucial role that  innovation technology tools  play as boundary objects in  the interaction among the three types of innovators.

Source: Neyer, A.-K. / Bullinger, A.C. / Möslein, K.M. (2008): Organizing for Open Innovation: Assessing the Interplay of Different Types of Innovators, CLIC Working Paper, Leipzig 2008.

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