Likoebe Maruping and Yukun Yang
Open innovation is defined as an approach to innovation that encourages a broad range of participants to engage in the process of identifying, creating, and deploying novel products or services. It is open in the sense that there is little to no restriction on who can participate in the innovation process. Open innovation has attracted a substantial amount of research and widespread adoption by individuals and commercial, nonprofit, and government organizations. This is attributable to three main factors. First, open innovation does not restrict who can participate in the innovation process, which broadens the access to participants and expertise. Second, to realize participants’ ideas, open innovation harnesses the power of crowds who are normally users of the product or service, which enhances the quality of innovative output. Third, open innovation often leverages digital platforms as a supporting technology, which helps entities scale up their business.
Recent years have witnessed a rise in the emergence of a number of digital platforms to support various open innovation activities. Some platforms achieve notable success in continuously generating innovations (e.g., InnoCentive.com, GitHub), while others fail or experience a mass exodus of participants (e.g., MyStarbucksIdea.com, Sidecar). Prior commentaries have conducted postmortems to diagnose the failures, identifying possible reasons, such as overcharging one side of the market, failing to develop trust with users, and inappropriate timing of market entry. At the root of these and other challenges that digital platforms face in open innovation is the issue of governance. In the article, governance is conceptualized as the structures determining how rigidly authority is exerted and who has authority to make decisions and craft rules for orchestrating key activities. Unfortunately, there is no comprehensive framework for understanding governance as applied to open innovation that takes place on digital platforms. A governance perspective can lend insight on the structure of how open innovation activities on digital platforms are governed in creating and capturing value from these activities, attracting and matching participants with problems or solutions, and monitoring and controlling the innovation process.
To unpack the mystery of open innovation governance, we propose a framework by synthesizing and integrating accreted knowledge from the platform governance literature that has been published in prominent journals over the past 10 years. Our framework is built around four key considerations for governance in open innovation: platform model (firm-owned, market, or community), innovation output ownership (platform-owned, pass-through, or shared), innovation engagement model (transactional, collaborative, or embedded), and nature of innovation output (idea or artifact). Further, we reveal promising research avenues on the governance of digital open innovation platforms.