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The Open Source School of Innovation

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The Open Source School of Innovation

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The open source industry have been at the forefront of open collaboration and innovation for sometime, and fostering innovation and collaboration remains a central selling point of most social business vendors.  Despite the best will in the world however, recent research revealed that most internal social networks are regarded as failures by their owners.

The open source movement have a proven track record in enabling a disparate community to collaborate and produce wonderfully innovative products.  The following are three key lessons you can learn from how the open source industry go about their stuff.

3 ways you can innovate like the open source movement

(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.

That project demanded that any participants made their discoveries open to the community to view and build upon.  You will need to demand similar from your community.  Silo thinking is not the way to achieve a social business.

The open source movement do all of these things very well and achieving these three principles will go a long way to helping your own collaborative efforts.


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