Fardad Zand from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands opened up session 4 with a practical talk on how information technology facilitates innovation. I had sat next to Fardad and the night before and he struck me as a very rigorous research with some interesting ideas. The complexity of Fardad’s ideas is pretty difficult to go through in ten minutes. His research shows that collaboration means innovation on dimensions of intensity, novelty and success, with IT as a facilitating factor. He uses some interesting measures such as computer density (computers/employees), IT orientation (sales via IT/total sales), etc. to measure these. Fardad had to zip through the rest of his slides, but I think there is a lot there. This is the type of work where the meat is in the underlying details. We all can intuitively feel IT increases innovation, but Fardad is delving deeper into more granular factors. Sounds like this would be worth learning more about.
Michail Batikas talked about firm contributions to FLOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software). This was a question that was asked a number of times during the weekend, and is a common topic of discussion at business school. Exactly how much should companies give away? Michail is building a model to assess the motivations of firms to contribute to FLOSS communities. His methodology is both qualitative and quantitative and in the early stages, but something to follow in the future.
Next up, Georgious Varaxoglou from Leeds University Business School gave an interesting talk about the process of technological innovation focused on the UK police force. It was an interesting study precisely because it wasn’t very CSI Miami – innovation seems to come slowly, but collaboration tools are becoming more important. E-mail has become widely used, with online platforms like Sharepoint (good luck if they use that) and intranets slowly gaining adoption. Systems integration also seems to be a major issue with multiple systems requiring many different passwords.
Finally, one of the coolest talks of the weekend was by Mandy Chessell, a master inventor who works for IBM. She has filed for 41 patents, 16 of which have been granted!
IBM has developed an Academy of Technology in the UK with its governance structure and many talented technologists. This is an innovation ecosystem that IBM has specifically developed to grow ideas in collaborative environments outside of corporate bureaucracy.
Mandy highlighted some of the characteristics of successful ecosystems, including:
- Shared benefit for all participants, especially researchers. This means an equity stake in innovations.
- Active engagement that moves towards trust and a common goal
- Agreed intellectual property structure from the very beginning, tied in with point #1 about shared benefits.
- Adequate resources to deliver on promises. Not getting the resources needed will sour the innovation ecology rapidly.
- Diversity and appropriateness of skill sets to achieve desired innovation goals.
Mandy then talked about the changing nature of innovation and who is involved. Employees, businesses, partners and customers are involved. But so are a new generation of Generation Y-ers who live and breathe technology and are extremely networked and collaborative. Very interesting talk that highlights a cultural and corporate shift in philosophy with regards to innovation.