Designing an Information System for Open Innovation
Bridging the Gap Between Individual & Organisational Creativity
Acta Universitatis Tamperensis No. 1606

By Mikko Ahonen
May 2011
Tampere University Press
Distributed by Coronet Books
ISBN: 9789514484209
150 pages
$79.50 Paper original

History shows that those companies that continue to invest in their innovative capabilities during tough economic times are often those that prosper when growth returns. Recently, information systems (IS) have been harnessed to support innovation. Even with IS support, innovation campaigns and suggestion management systems often end up in failure. Employees and customers are reluctant to share their best ideas. Individuals’ interests, motivation, creativity and life-long learning are seldom adequately supported by companies. In the information systems research area there is very little research on creativity and creativity has traditionally been studied mainly within the decision support systems (DSS) research area. This DSS area has focused on rather mechanistic idea-generation processes lacking a focus on individuals and their creativity. Even in the emerging open innovation paradigm, individual and group levels have come in for little research. From these starting points, we became interested in ways to improve existing information systems and innovation practices.

The research question here is: How to design an artefact to support learning and creativity within the open innovation paradigm. Since we are interested in building new artefacts, we will utilise design research methods, particularly the Design Science Research Methodology (DSRM) process model.

Our three artefacts are the results of our work. The first artefact, the Mobile Personal Development Plan, is focused on extending development talks between an employer and employees within human resource management to support innovation. Curiosity and emerging interests are seen here as idea seeds and future competences. The second artefact, the iPortfolio, extends this with a life-long learning and problem-solving focus. The third artefact, the Brokering Platform for Open Innovation, finally focuses on collaboration with customers and crowds. The software development was time consuming in our work and only the first artefact is demonstrated as a functional software prototype. Our pilot in an SME company illustrates practical requirements and usability issues related to the software. Additionally, a Delphi study with international open innovation experts served to identify future related requirements. Given the lack of creativity research in the IS field, we claim that our work makes an appropriate contribution. To the design research literature our input is new usage cases of the previously mentioned DSRM process model. Our results apply to organisations, where the employees work in dispersed teams and need an information system to communicate their emerging ideas and interests for more systematic problem-solving. The managers in our study reported that there are plenty of ideas available, but the challenge is to ensure the commitment of external resources to the actual innovation building. The integration of learning into the innovation and problem-solving activity should be motivational. We therefore discuss human resource management in relation to creativity and innovation. Surprisingly, in our pilots we noticed difficulties in time management in mobile settings and the current health risk debate gradually changed our artefact design, so this work also provides a critical view on mobility and on the access anytime, anywhere phenomenon. Finally, we suggest improvements to existing innovation practices in organisations.

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