The top rated “The Open Innovation Marketplace”, authored by InnoCentive’s Founder Alpheus Bingham and President and CEO Dwayne Spradlin has been receiving positive reviews from innovation practitioners, CEOs and executives, industry analysts and the media. Though the book presents a comprehensive overview as well as a deep dive into the practice of open innovation, the authors still had more to share. Below is a chapter that didn’t make it into the book, which we’d like to share with you now. Enjoy!
Closed Innovation Suboptimizes Solutions – The World Can Do Better.
by Alpheus Bingham, Founder, InnoCentive
One of the expectations of my early career in the pharmaceutical industry was to design new synthetic routes (ways to make medicines). This was for a whole variety of molecules, not just the ones for which I had some special training and experience. At various times it included heterocycles, beta-lactams, silanes, inorganic salts, and many others. When asked to undertake such a challenge, I usually did so based on my own grasp of chemistry and the aid of a technician or two to carry out the exploratory experiments. That is not to say I never sought help. In fact a small, informal group of seven or eight PhD chemists would meet weekly and share what they were working on in hopes to gain some insight and ideas from the others. I think my experience was typical in a commercial research environment.
Contrast the approach just described, closed innovation within an industrial organization, to a purely academic exercise from graduate school that was much more successful in exploring a wider range of potential solutions. In a synthetic organic chemistry course, taught at Stanford University and overseen by Professor William S. Johnson, 20 other “generally-accepted-as-swift” chemists and I were assigned one molecule each week. Our job was to design an appropriate synthesis for that substance, that is, ways to make the molecules much like the ones I would later be making in my work assignments. We were not asked to actually conduct the synthesis in the laboratory but to support each of our recommended steps with precedents from the scientific literature. This was, essentially, no different from the first steps I would later take in the synthesis challenges I faced as an employee. These weekly homework assignments were not simple problems. Each assignment required 20 to 80 hours of effort, and students generally dropped all other coursework while this one class was taken. Papers were turned in on Monday, and that Wednesday a special evening class was held, which often extended into the wee hours of the morning. (more…)