The latest issue of the Harvard Business School Working Knowledge has a great interview with Harvard Prof. Karim Lakhani (his blog here), in which he describes the results of his latest research – the analysis of how open source norms of transparency, permeable access, and collaboration work with scientists.
After studying the effects of broadcasting or introducing problems to outsiders for 166 distinct scientific problems from the research labs of 26 firms over a 4 1/2 year period they found that this method, borrowed from the software open source movement, was yielding effective solutions. In fact they found that it was those with expertise at the periphery of a problem’s field who were most likely to find the answers quickly!
Some of the best innovations do happen at the intersections of disciplines, which is why it is always a bad idea to have siloed organizations.
Another interesting finding is what motivates people to spend time in open source projects. Sure, reputation and the potential for rewards – as is the case for Innocentive – count, but some of the most important drivers are “fun and the enjoyment of problem solving.” The more creative people feel in projects, the more likely they are to spend time with those projects!