Sub-theme 19: Beyond Ideation: Sustaining Open Innovation in Organizations, Communities, and Markets

Paul R. Carlile
Boston University, USA
Karl-Emanuel Dionne
HEC Montréal, Canada
Rebecca Karp
Harvard Business School, USA

Call for Papers

Solving for organizational and societal challenges frequently requires weaving together specialized knowledge that resides within organizations and communities with ideas that come from the outside. Scholars have investigated how external communities and users contribute to producing innovative ideas (von Hippel, 2005; West, 2003; Faraj et al., 2016). In a related vein, scholars have examined how firms can organize to receive inbound ideas that manifest in markets and communities (Chesbrough, 2003; West, Vanhaverbeke, & Chesbrough, 2006). While both conceptions have explained how innovative ideas are generated outside the four walls of organizations, little research or theory has wrestled with how open innovation is implemented, integrated and sustained over time. Interest in opening innovation processes has developed broadly across many different scholarly domains and matured (Dionne & Carlile, 2019). Thus, we see this as an opportune time to extend our current understanding beyond questioning the locus of innovation (e.g., Baldwin & von Hippel, 2011) to also focus on how innovations developed through open channels are sustained and integrated in practice.
Recent studies highlight that collaboration and innovation increasingly happen in a new locus of innovation, beyond organizational boundaries, in events (Lampel & Meyer, 2008; Dionne & Carlile, 2019), spaces (Furnari, 2014), incubator and accelerator programs (Pustovrh et al., 2020), and virtual settings (Dahlander et al., 2008). Opening the innovation process to individuals (Lifshitz-Assaf, 2018), teams (Edmondson & Harvey, 2017) and organizations (O’Mahony & Karp, 2022) that reside outside of a firm or community can reduce the costs of sourcing innovative ideas (von Hippel & von Krogh, 2003), increase creative outputs by incorporating diverse perspectives, and improve problem solving (Jeppesen & Lakhani, 2010; West & Bogers, 2014). For example, NASA, a recognized leader in research and development, has turned to open models of innovation to collect ideas from external contributors to solve their internal research challenges (Lifshitz-Assaf, 2018). Despite our current understanding of the early stages of how open innovation channels can foster innovative ideas, how such novel ideas and innovations sourced from open channels are sustained beyond their initial creation and incorporated back into focal organizations and communities is less examined.
Organizations and communities frequently dismiss ideas that are distant from their own (Piezunka & Dahlander, 2015) or that are developed by individuals with different professions, demographics or experiences than those dominant within their focal organization (Liftshitz-Assaf, 2018; Edmondson & Harvey, 2018). Open innovation often involves knowledge from different domains, which may hinder people’s ability to collaborate across domains given their difference in language, meaning and interests (Carlile, 2004; Dougherty & Dunne, 2012). Organizations can struggle to make sense of and translate ideas and innovations that challenge their own assumptions (Carlie, 2002; Carlile & Rebentisch, 2003). This is particularly true when ideas or innovations are disruptive or have the potential to reshape organizational competencies (Henderson, 2006). The tension organizations and communities face between leveraging their internal ways of working and tapping external sources of innovation can provoke challenges that hinder the potential of open innovation efforts.
Currently, we have a limited processual understanding of the activities and practices required to deal with these organizational challenges to develop, support, implement and integrate ideas generated through open innovation channels into a firm, organization or community. Recent research sheds light on potential new avenues for organizations to solve these challenges, for example, by using new processes tailored for open innovation (Teece, 2020), developing corporate accelerator programs (Kohler, 2016), reorganizing the practices of innovation units (Chesbrough & Tucci, 2020), or by changing firms’ business models (Tucci et al., 2016). It is however less clear how development and integration efforts play out over time, who benefits, and how these efforts may recursively reshape the ideas, projects, groups, communities and organizations that participate in open innovation along the way. This is critically important to unpack, as solving any contemporary organizational or societal challenge requires more than procuring good ideas and helpful technologies, it requires executing and implementing those ideas and innovations. Our sub-theme takes on this agenda and aims to provide a deeper understanding of these dynamics.
Topics and questions that we look forward to discussing during this sub-theme could include, but are not limited to the following:

  • How do organizations integrate ideas that come from open channels in ways that they can be sustained?

  • Do markets, communities, and firms understand, evaluate, revise and use ideas from open channels differently? And if so, how?

  • How are ideas that come from open innovation channels adapted, altered, revised and transformed when used or integrated within organizations and communities?

  • How do organizations change their practices, mechanisms and processes to support the development of external and transformational ideas?

  • Who benefits within and across an organization from open innovation initiatives, and what shifts occur?

  • How do members of organizations, communities and projects shape the process of innovation to align with their own interests?

  • How do organizations, project leaders and collaborators manage the plurality of stakeholders that participate in the open innovation process that involves different language, interpretation and interests?

  • How does open innovation initiatives reshape the dynamics of collaboration and competition within a market, industry or ecosystem?


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Paul R. Carlile is a Professor of Management and Information Systems at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, USA. His work focuses on how the boundaries among actors from different knowledge domains can be managed to more effectively drive collaboration, innovation and change. Paul has examined this in a variety of industries and organizational contexts.
Karl-Emanuel Dionne is an Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at HEC Montréal, Canada. His work focuses on new approaches to organizing innovation, knowing communities, interdisciplinary collaboration, and open innovation at the intersection of different sectors. Karl-Emanuel’s research particularly takes place in the context of healthcare institutions, digital health technologies and creative industries.
Rebecca Karp is an Assistant Professor in the Strategy Unit at Harvard Business School, USA. Her research examines how firms, communities and organizations execute on their strategies and grow. In particular, she focuses on the role innovation plays in supporting strategy execution, fostering change in organizational work practices and in shaping the way firms grow.