Collaborative innovation network

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Collaborative innovation is a process in which multiple players contribute towards creating new products with customers and suppliers.[1]

Collaboration can occur in all aspects of the business cycle, depending on the context:

  • Procurement and supplier collaboration
  • Research and development of new products, services, and technologies
  • Marketing, distribution, and commercialization

Collaborative innovation network (CoIN) is a collaborative innovation practice that uses internet platforms such as email, chat, social networks, blogs, and Wikis to promote communication and innovation within self-organizing virtual teams. The difference is that people collaborating in CoIN are so intrinsically motivated that they might not be paid nor get any advantage.

Thus, a CoIN is a social construct with massive innovation potential. The originator of the term has defined it, Peter Gloor from MIT Sloan's Center for Collective Intelligence, as "a cyber team of self-motivated people with a collective vision, enabled by the Web to collaborate in achieving a common goal by sharing ideas, information, and work".

Indeed, CoIN is a type of open collaboration that helps organizations to become more creative, productive, and efficient. By adopting CoIN as part of their culture, these companies accelerate innovation, uncover hidden business opportunities, reduce costs, and enhance synergies. They can engage employees from every level of the hierarchy towards a joint project (discovering new talents and promoting direct relations between employees) and partner with external parties.

Similar is the concept of the "Self-Organizing Innovation Network" author has described, Robert Rycroft of the Elliott School of International Affairs of George Washington University.


Coins feature internal transparency and direct communication. Members of a CoIN collaborate and share knowledge directly with each other rather than through hierarchies. They come together with a shared vision because they are intrinsically motivated to do so and seek to collaborate to advance an idea.

Coins work across hierarchies and boundaries where members can exchange ideas and information directly and openly. This collaborative and transparent environment fosters innovation. Gloor describes the phenomenon as "swarm creativity." He says, "CoINs are the best engines to drive innovation."[2]

Coins existed well before the advent of modern communication technology. However, the internet and instant communication improved productivity and enabled the reach of a global scale. Today, they rely on Internet, e-mail, and other communications vehicles for information sharing.[2]

According to Peter Gloor,[2] CoINs have 5 main characteristics:

  • Dispersed Membership: technology allows members to be spread worldwide. Regardless of the location, members share a common goal and are convinced of their cause.
  • Interdependent Membership: cooperation between members is critical to achieving a common goal. The work of one member is affected and interdependent on the others' work.
  • No simple chain of command: there is no superior command. It is a decentralized and self-organized system. Conflicts are solved without the need for a hierarchy or authority.
  • Work towards a common goal: members are willing to contribute, work and share freely. They are intrinsically motivated to donate their work, create, and share knowledge in favor of a common goal.
  • Dependence on trust: cooperative behavior and mutual trust are needed to work efficiently within the network. Members act according to an ethical code that states the rules and principles to be followed by all members. Usually, moral codes include regulations related to respect, consistency, reciprocity, and rationality.

There also are five essential elements of collaborative innovation networks (what Gloor calls" genetic code"):[2]

1. They are learning networks: they set an informal and flexible environment that facilitates and stimulates collaboration and the exchange of ideas, information, and knowledge.

2. They need an ethical code: they agree on a moral code that guides the conduct and behavior of the members.

3. They are based on trust and self-organization: members trust each other without needing a centralized management. They are brought together by mutual respect and a strong sense of shared beliefs.

4. They make knowledge accessible to everyone: CoINs nurture communication to the extent that everyone shares information. Nowadays, with the internet and social media, their ideas and concepts achieve a global level.

5. They operate in internal honesty and transparency: they create a system based on reciprocal trust and mutually established principles.


CoINs have been developing many disruptive innovations such as the Internet, Linux, the Web and Wikipedia. Students with little or no budget created these inventions in universities or labs. They were not focused on the money but on the sense of accomplishment.[2]

The Web is the early version of the Internet. It was driven by a CoIN of intrinsically motivated people who wanted to improve technical development and launch a disruptive solution. Their goal was to link mainframes and allow multiple users simultaneously.

Another contribution was Linux, an operating system for personal computing that directly competes with Microsoft. It was initially developed by a student called Linus Torvalds and later became an open source software. The code is publicly available, and anyone can contribute or enhance it. The success of Linux is the constant and continuous updating, which is much cheaper than closed-source software.

Wikipedia gathers thousands of volunteers who constantly write and update content. Although it lacks a hierarchy or central authority, the entries are primarily accurate and complete. Volunteers share a strong feeling of community and willingness to contribute towards knowledge without being paid for it.

Faced with these creations, large companies such as IBM and Intel have learned to use the principles of open innovation to enhance their research learning curve. They increased or established collaborations with universities, agencies, and small companies to accelerate their processes and launch new services faster.[2]

Collaborative innovation network factors[edit]

Asheim and Isaksen (2002)[3] conclude that innovative network contributes to the achievement of optimal allocation of resources, and promoting knowledge transfer performance. However, four factors of collaborative innovation networks affect the performance of CoINs differently.[4] Those factors are:

1. network size: network size is the number of partners such as enterprises, universities, research institutions, intermediaries, and government departments in an innovative network.[5] Previous work reveals that network size has a positive effect on knowledge transfer[6] as it provides the actor (e.g., firm) with two significant substantive benefits: one is the exposure to a more significant amount of external information, knowledge, and ideas and the other is resource sharing between the actor and its contacts such as knowledge sharing, reduction of transaction costs, complementarities, and scale.[7][8]

2. network heterogeneity: network heterogeneity refers to differences in the knowledge, technology, ability, and size of members in the network.[4] Firms in a more heterogeneous network are more likely to acquire external knowledge resources.[9] When network heterogeneity is higher, getting complementary resources and accelerating the speed of knowledge transfer is easier.[4]

3. network tie-strength: Tie-Strength refers to the nature of a relational contact[10] and includes the degree of intimacy, duration, and frequency; the breadth of topic usually refers to time length, tie depth, emotional intensity, intimacy frequency, and interactive connection.[10][11] A collaborative, innovative network with a high level of tie-strength can provide firms with practical information and knowledge, reduce risk and uncertainty in the innovation process, and achieve successful knowledge transfer.[4]

4. network centrality: Network centrality refers to an actor's position in a network. Actors centrally located in a network are in an advantageous position to monitor the flow of information and have the consequent advantage of having large numbers of contacts willing and able to provide them with meaningful opportunities and resources.[12]

Current challenges[edit]

Collaborative innovation still needs to be empowered. A more collaborative approach involving stakeholders such as governments, corporations, entrepreneurs, and scholars is critical to tackling today's main challenges.

First, raising awareness of CoIN and its benefits among companies and major economic fields is still important. Policymakers and corporate leaders could support the development of programs, strategies, and educational plans to stimulate CoINs in specific sectors, benefiting the whole economy.[13]

Second, the overall legal and regulatory framework must still evolve to foster cross-firm collaboration. Fiscal and intellectual property regimes should be reviewed to provide the necessary infrastructure to nourish CoINs. A further stimulus is important to encourage the creation of startups and the development of a network of partners across companies.[13]

Finally, financial aid should be granted to support collaborative technology, research, and innovation projects. Coins have an enormous potential to deliver innovation and drive significant gains in competitiveness. However, they need resources to operate and reach their maximum potential fully.


As CoINs become increasingly popular among governments and corporations, the ethical, financial, economic, and cognitive issues that drive incentives will inevitably face challenges. Over time potential innovators may be unwilling to participate in projects merely based on implied financial gain. As globalization begins to impact traditional models of planned social progress, the broader political context where participants cooperate has become more relevant lately. This suggests an increased need for independent parties to collaborate based on agreed-upon principles and objectives; ultimately, this could encompass the interests of humanity and the emergence of a global culture.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kodama (2015). Collaborative Innovation: Developing Health Support Ecosystems. Routledge. ISBN 9781317654520.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Gloor, Peter A. (2006). Swarm Creativity: Competitive Advantage through Collaborative Innovation Networks. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198041368.
  3. ^ Asheim, Isaksen, Bjørn T.; Arne (2002). "Regional innovation systems: The integration of local 'sticky' and global 'ubiquitous' knowledge". The Journal of Technology Transfer. 27 (1): 77–86. doi:10.1023/A:1013100704794. S2CID 14644127.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ a b c d Xuemei, Liangxiu, Saixing, Xie, Fang, Zeng (2016). "Collaborative innovation network and knowledge transfer performance: A fsQCA approach". Journal of Business Research. 69 (11): 5210–5215. doi:10.1016/j.jbusres.2016.04.114.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Hemphälä, Magnusson, Jens, Mats (22 February 2012). "Networks for innovation-but what networks and what innovation? Creativity and Innovation Management". Creativity and Innovation Management. 1 (21): 3–16. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8691.2012.00625.x.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Baum, Calabrese, Silverman, Joel A., Tony, Brian S. (21 March 2000). "Don't go it alone: alliance network composition and startups' performance in Canadian biotechnology". Strategic Management Journal. 21 (3): 267–294. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1097-0266(200003)21:3<267::AID-SMJ89>3.0.CO;2-8.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Ahuja, G. (2000). "Collaboration networks, structural holes, and innovation: A longitudinal study" (PDF). Administrative Science Quarterly. 45 (3): 425–455. doi:10.2307/2667105. hdl:2152/29302. JSTOR 2667105. S2CID 36475652.
  8. ^ Hansen, Mores, Lovas., M. T., M. L., B. (2005). "Knowledge sharing in organizations: Mul- tiple networks, multiple phases". Academy of Management Journal. 48 (5): 776–793. CiteSeerX doi:10.5465/amj.2005.18803922. S2CID 15729683.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Kogut, Zander, Bruce, Udo (June 1995). "Knowledge, Market Failure and the Multinational Enterprise: A Reply". Journal of International Business Studies. 26 (2): 417–426. CiteSeerX doi:10.1057/palgrave.jibs.8490182. S2CID 153766076.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ a b Granovetter, Mark S. (May 1973). "The strength of weak ties". American Journal of Sociology. 78 (6): 1360–1380. doi:10.1086/225469. S2CID 59578641.
  11. ^ Marsden, Campbell, Peter V., Karen E. (1984). "Measuring tie strength" (PDF). Social Forces. 63 (3): 483–501. doi:10.2307/2579058. JSTOR 2579058.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ Mehra, Dixon, Brass, Robertson, Ajay, Andrea L., Daniel J., Bruce (1 February 2006). "The Social Network Ties of Group Leaders: Implications for Group Performance and Leader Reputation" (PDF). Organization Science. 17 (1): 64–79. doi:10.1287/orsc.1050.0158. S2CID 937577.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  13. ^ a b World Economic Forum (2015). "Collaborative Innovation Transforming Business, Driving Growth" (PDF).

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]