Sunday, November 15, 2009

Creating the Conditions for Explosive Innovation

Here is the most succinct description of how I think we can drive innovation, economic development, and spur our world on to the new low-carbon economy.

One of the reasons to make anything more open is the admission that there is more value to be extracted. Whatever we are talking about is underused. So in my mind, “open” implies “excess capacity.”

There are also levels of openness. Some kinds of open mean that certain people, with specific attributes (enough money, enough expertise) can participate in the newly opened asset. Other kinds of openness dramatically change the equation of who can participate: this kind of openness reduces the cost of participation and the level of expertise required to participate and therefore is game-changing, especially in the number of people who choose to engage.


Guest bedrooms -> hotels -> couchsurfing (in 10 years since its founding, beds are now available to visitors in 55,000 cities in 231 countries – try that private sector!)

Ma bell phones -> cellphones -> iphone (in 2.5 years since its market entry, over 100,000 applications have been made)

Cars with fixed ownership & fixed wireless offerings ->
Zipcar/TomTom/Sync ->
multi-purpose open devices inviting creation of an infinite number of apps (who knows? We have yet to produce an open in-vehicle after-market platform)

Single-purpose wireless devices ->
Extensible malleable wireless devices ->
Open wireless devices with a mesh communications protocol (ubiquitous low cost local data transmission worldwide!)

This idea has important implications. For companies, opening up some platforms is a way they can farm for innovation cheaply. Losing ideas lose on their own R&D dollars. Winning ideas can be purchased by the platform-providing company. Voila! low cost R&D with 100% success rates!

For governments, the implications are much more far reaching. If a government seeks to maximize the private sector or individual gain from its expenditures, it should open up as many of its technology investments as possible. It should seek to lower the cost and expertise barriers for participation, with the resulting explosion of uses and innovations on the underlying platform.

This is why I have been advocating that government technology purchases require that excess network capacity be make open, that devices chosen be non-proprietary and able to be multi-purpose, that open standards and internet protocol be used.

Related posts:
Lowering Barriers to Innovation in Cars

Creating an Open In-Vehicle Platform
Open Platforms, Smart Grid & Smart Transportation
Whats "open" got to do with it?
Time for Cooperative Capitalism
Technology Recommendations for Congestion Pricing

1 comment:

Nick G said...

Robin, I really enjoyed your talk at the MassDOT dev conference, where I first heard you talk about these ideas. I think you've really done a good job using concrete examples to explain an important (yet very abstract) concept. Looking forward to what's next.