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Open Source as a Model For Innovation

Modeling After Open Source

  • July 19, 2006
  • By Michael Hickins

Innovation is being increasingly recognized as the key to growth, yet most senior executives give their research and development organizations little credit for generating it.

IBM, which has just launched a new R&D Management consulting practice, believes that companies can get their R&D organizations to help them innovate by having them align themselves more closely with overall company strategy.

Mel Weems, global practice leader for the new R&D Management practice, told LinuxPlanet that companies can "create a new game-changing play in the market by bringing together operational innovation, business process innovation, and business model innovation, which is the holy grail of innovation."

The model for this, he said, is the open source community, which benefits individual members even as they share new ideas with others.

"You can advance the company agenda even if you don't own everything," he noted.

Innovation is about more than new product development--it includes new service delivery models and partnerships--and Weems suggested said that companies would benefit from including their R&D organization in cross-functional meetings that can drive more innovation.

At first, he admitted, there tends to be resistance--particularly among members of the R&D community--to let outsiders into their labs. That is where the open source analogy plays well.

As has been widely reported, many companies, including tech bellwether Sun Microsystems, have announced spending cuts in recent months, and R&D budgets have suffered as a result.

Worse, the perception among top-level executives is that R&D doesn't provide the kind of direct results that companies are looking for, as shown by a recent survey of 750 CEOs across the world sponsored by IBM.

"CEOs ranked R&D as their 7th source for new ideas," said Weems.

As part of the new IBM R&D consulting practice, IBM business consultants and researchers will collaborate with clients from different industries to help align R&D to support and spur corporate innovation.

IBM will conduct extensive analyses of companies' R&D operations, develop efficient business processes to shorten product development lifecycles and time-to-market, and create R&D road-maps based on future technologies and changing market dynamics.

The R&D Management practice leverages practical expertise from IBM Research and IBM's integrated product development organization, management consultants, and technology and intellectual property divisions.

This article originally appeared on internetnews.com, a JupiterWeb site.

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