I wrote last year about the various ways the open source movement can benefit the way you innovate. The message was broken down into three distinct approaches you can take:
(1) Modularize the content – You want to create as few barriers to participation as possible. Breaking your project down into smaller chunks makes the project seem much more accessible. The open source movement is outstanding at this, breaking software down into modules and creating an architecture that allows those modules to work together.
It also allows individuals with unique talents to see the part of the project where they can best apply those talents. So not only do you reduce barriers to participation, you’re also broadening your talent pool. This is not an easy thing to achieve, but if you can get it nailed you will see the benefits.
(2) Encourage small contributions – Chances are lots of people in your organisation have talents that they can apply to your project, however small they may be, so make sure you encourage all participation, even if only small.
The open source movement works so well because there is no obligation on developers, they can do as little or as much as they wish, and all contributions are appreciated.
(3) Make it easy for people to find information- An iterative approach to evolution demands an excellent information store that is both open and transparent. That way people can see what has already been achieved and can either reuse earlier work or build upon it. Creating a strong information commons is crucial to the success of your collaborative efforts. An excellent example of this from outside the software industry is the Human Genome Project.
Suffice to say, by far the most successful example of the open source approach to innovation is the Linux operating system. Through the Linux Foundation however, the approach is being applied to other fields. Foremost amongst these is OpenBEL, which aims to change how biological research is conducted.
“Companies in the biotech sector want to take advantage of the Linux Foundation’s services and knowledge to accelerate development of OpenBEL,” Amanda McPherson, vice president of marketing and developer programs at the Linux Foundation said this week.
OpenBEL was launched in 2012 and now counts the likes of AstraZeneca, Harvard Medical School and Pfizer amongst its supporters. BEL allows researchers to share their findings using a common format, thus significantly aiding collaboration.