Creating and Evolving an Open Innovation Ecosystem: Lessons from Symbian Ltd.

36 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2011

See all articles by Joel West

Joel West

Hildegard College; San Jose State University - Organization and Management; KGI - Keck Graduate Institute

David Wood

Delta Wisdom Ltd; Accenture Corporation - Accenture (India Branch)

Date Written: July 11, 2008


Firms that practice open innovation strategies rely on the cooperation of external firms to provide components, complements and customers for the innovations of the focal firm (Chesbrough, 2003). Such strategies can be quite complex in systems-based industries, which inherently require coordinating across a wide range of partners to deliver customer value (West, 2006).

Open innovation researchers have theorised that value networks (or business ecosystems) can play an important part in such open innovation strategies (Vanhaverbeke, 2006; Maula et al, 2006). However, limited empirical work has been done on the process of creating such ecosystems and the forces and processes that cause them to evolve over time.

In considering firm ecosystem strategies, we are interested in the linkage between firm motivations, ecosystem strategies and outcomes, and how these factors and their relationships evolve over time. To do so, we examine the complex ecosystem surrounding Symbian Ltd. that supports its mobile phone operating system.

After reviewing prior research on open innovation networks, we present a longitudinal case study on the creation and evolution of Symbian’s ecosystem over three distinct phases in its first decade. From this, we identify inherent challenges of managing open innovation networks, including creating a new network for an unproven value proposition, and prioritising the conflicting needs of disparate network members.

Keywords: value networks, ecosystems, open innovation, mobile phones

Suggested Citation

West, Joel and Wood, David, Creating and Evolving an Open Innovation Ecosystem: Lessons from Symbian Ltd. (July 11, 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Joel West (Contact Author)

Hildegard College ( email )

150 Paularino Ave. Bldg. B,
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
United States

San Jose State University - Organization and Management ( email )

One Washington Square
San Jose, CA 95192-0066
United States

KGI - Keck Graduate Institute ( email )

535 Watson Drive
Claremont, CA 91711
United States
909-293-8550 (Phone)


David Wood

Delta Wisdom Ltd ( email )

32 Chadwick Place
London, Surrey KT6 5RE
United Kingdom


Accenture Corporation - Accenture (India Branch) ( email )

United Kingdom


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