Open Collaboration for Innovation: Principles and Performance
Sheen S. Levine
Emory University - Goizueta Business School
September 16, 2013
Levine, S. S., & Prietula, M. J., Open Collaboration for Innovation: Principles and Performance. Organization Science, Forthcoming
The principles of open collaboration for innovation and production — once distinctive to open source software — are now found in many other ventures. Some of these ventures are internet-based: Wikipedia, online forums and communities; others are off-line, in medicine, science, and everyday life. Such ventures have been affecting traditional firms, and may represent a new organizational form. Despite the impact, questions remain about the operating principles and performance of such ventures. Here we define open collaboration (OC), the underlying set of principles, and propose that it is a robust engine for innovation and production. First, we review multiple OC ventures and identify four defining principles. In all instances, participants create goods and services of economic value, they exchange and reuse each other’s work, they labor purposefully with just loose coordination, and they permit anyone to contribute and consume. These principles distinguish OC from other organizational forms, such as firms or cooperatives. Next, we turn to performance. To understand the performance of OC, we develop a computational model, combining innovation theory with recent evidence on human cooperation. We identify and systematically vary three elements that affect performance: the cooperativeness of participants, the diversity of their needs, and the degree to which the goods are rival (subtractable). Through computational experiments, we find that OC performs well even in seemingly harsh environments: when cooperators are a minority, free riders are present, diversity is lacking, or goods are rival. Given the results, we suggest that OC is likely to continue expanding and provide advice for research, practice, and policy.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 56
Keywords: Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Strategy, Performance, Simulation, Model, Software, Open Source, Crowdsourcing, Wikipedia, Community, Economics, Psychology
JEL Classification: O31, C63, D64, L86, O34, P32Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: February 23, 2008 ; Last revised: October 13, 2013
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