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"Do you know what my favorite renewable fuel is? An ecosystem for innovation." - Thomas Friedman

A riddle for you: What do an orchestra, a record label, Wikipedia and video games have in common?

At first, it might seem like the answer is "absolutely nothing," but, in fact, they are all models of innovation networks. Some are stringent, some are freewheeling, but each encourages innovation among a group of collaborators.

Before you read on about innovation models, stop here. If you haven't read the first article in this series on collaborative innovating, go back and read it now. It will help put this information into context for you.

The Orchestra Innovation Model

In an orchestra, each musician is given a finite set of notes to play and no one is given an opportunity to change or improve upon their own set of sheet music. The conductor guides them through the music as they play together, directing them and creating the full effect of the piece. Everyone is working together on a distinct set of instructions to achieve a distinct goal.

To determine whether or not the Orchestra Model is right for your initiative, you've got to ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Can we, as a company, specialize our assets in a way that meets the network's goals without tying it up in the future success of that network?
  2. Will the opportunity to play the role of adapter in a network move the company away from other networks?

The Creative Bazaar Model

Like the Orchestra Model, the Creative Bazaar model deploys centralized leadership, but in a different way. Think of a record label. They sign musicians from a wide variety of genres, and they are open to new and creative ways to expand that label into different areas. However, the decision to sign, record and distribute music is ultimately up to a centralized set of leaders.

An inventor network is an example of a Creative Bazaar. The floor is open to all inventors and their ideas are considered, but it's up to predetermined leaders to decide which ideas to implement. However, which leaders make those decisions depends on factors like product category, costs, needs, etc., so leadership is centralized, but less defined than an Orchestra model.

Is a Creative Bazaar right for your project? Consider these questions first:

  1. Do you have a significant pool of inventors from which you can draw ideas?
  2. Do you have processes in place to collect ideas, filter them and evaluate them? If not, do you have the resources to develop such processes?
  3. Do you have the capabilities in place to take an idea and run with it, advance it or transform it?

The Jam Central Model

You're probably familiar with a musical "jam session." A group of musicians gets together without a bandleader or conductor, and without formal sheet music. They simply sit down and play together without a clearly defined goal other than to make music. There may be rules and guidelines established by the group, but leadership is diffused throughout the group and innovation is emergent throughout the process. Wikipedia is also an example of a Jam Central Model. Individuals edit pages on their own, and different editors step in to oversee the process at different times.

Questions to ask before emerging a Jam Central Model:

  1. What are your expected outcomes?
  2. Are those outcomes promising?
  3. Could your potential outcomes radically change the market?

The Mod Station Model

"Mod" can mean a lot of things, but in the context of innovation modeling, we take it from the world of gaming. Some video games open up their source code to anyone who wants to make modifications. Those "mods" instantly open up a new world of characters, storylines, skills and challenges to fans of the game. If you've got a wide and highly knowledgeable fan base, a Mod Station might be ideal for product improvements and new product ideas.

Mod Stations aren't right for everyone. First, ask yourself:

  • Is the platform able to be modified easily by those with the right skills?
  • Is there an interest in modifications (does your audience care enough to participate?)?
  • Can you see opportunities to innovate within the existing platform?
  • How will modifications expand your market presence?

The great thing about innovation models - or the challenge, if you're new to the process - is that different models can be applied in different situations. You may have one product that is ripe for a Mod Station, and you may have another project that would benefit from a Creative Bazaar. Before you set out on a collaborative innovation journey, evaluate the project and choose a model that will benefit your team and your bottom line.


Larry Hart

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