The Rise of Social Innovation

The Rise of Social InnovationSocial Innovation forms

Social Innovation refers hereafter to social processes of innovation or collaborative innovation, such as open source methods and techniques. Collaborative innovation has developed over the past ten years through different types of approaches, and has reached momentum on the ground of realizing fast knowledge circulation across boundaries:

  • Open innovation (Chesbrough, 2003) completely changes the innovation funnel, by discovering and embedding new solutions and expertise more rapidly that an internal R&D lab might accomplish; reversely, by “making unused ideas and technologies available to others, companies develop new business out of collaboration”;
  • Strategic Community networks are another form of Social Innovation. Japanese companies manage strategic communities (SCs) for new product development, with internal and external actors, including customers; strategic communities handle a dynamic process of knowledge creation involving 4 principles: “Ba” concept (physical or virtual place offering shared context to exchange tacit and casual knowledge), community of practices, pragmatic boundaries, and networks among the SCs;
  • User-led innovation (Von Hippel, 1986) open the doors to cocreation, and position “customer communities to drive a business growth”. “Individuals prototype novel products and receive assistance in developing their innovations from fellow community members. Information and assistance, as well as the innovations themselves, are freely shared ” explain Franke and Shah in their 2002 study. Social media is a natural booster.
  • Crowd sourced innovation, Idea improvement program (innovation idea helpers, office of innovation, center for creativity and innovation), Business Plan Competition, innovation tournaments, 72-hour IdeaJams, knowledge reuse system, and Global’s Idea Hub offer levers to nurture the innovation pipeline through external and internal ideation, and build a vivid corporate culture of innovation mixing the inside of the company with the outside market of innovation.
  • Modular innovation and Collaborative design show how collaborative design through creative components, paves the way for acceptance and ownership, driving developments on top of your innovation platform, and fosters a positive ecosystem;
  • Open Source organizes and boosts the production process; it can provide creativity even if no profit incentive is at stake. The fact that developers are often users also triggers short loop improvement.

Social Innovation drivers

The underlying meaning for Social Innovation approach embraces the following purposes:

  • Extend the exploration scope for new ideas;
  • Complement the ability to design, and the capacity to deliver;
  • Enhance customer experience, and prepare acceptance by the users.

To achieve these goals, Social Innovation develops towards two directions: partnerships and user integration. “Rapid innovation drives new partnerships and revised value chains, considering innovation as part of an ecosystem (or a leadership platform as described by Larry Keeley): frontiers become loose as companies cooperate with their former competitors in coopetition framework, both evolutive and contingent.” (Pierre-Jean Benghozi in “Digital markets require disrupive business models”, 2011) “The organization must embrace paradoxical forms of leadership, tolerance and rigour, autocracy and openness, it evolves from a product-based logic to a system-oriented vision, states Gilles Garel in his opening speech of  Chair of Innovation Management at CNAM. User integration results from the end of the traditional linear innovation model (from R&D to sales). “It has been given up because of the need to accelerate product development and the intention to be first on the market.  Therefore, innovative firms try to integrate usage concerns and constraints at early stage. They redefine radically product design including features and user experiences hand in hand with technology and infrastructure know-how. Rapid innovation leads actually to anticipate market launch with beta releases or non stabilized version of new products.” clarifies Pierre-Jean Benghozi. Integrating user experience upstream is also at stake in User Oriented Design that Brigitte Borja de Mozota links to new product development (User Oriented Design impact on New Product development, 2005). User Oriented Design impacts positively new product development in 4 dimensions close to Social Innovation: “It enhances collaborative development, improves idea generation, produces superior product or service solutions, and facilitates product appropriateness and adoption”.

From a passive user to an active co-designer

If innovation process often appears as a tension between a technology-driven and a user oriented focus, Ezio Manzini observes that Social Innovation is building a reverse loop from the user to the technology. Even more, as in the story of the SMS, the user creates a new habit out of an existing technology. It matches the Intention Economy described by Valérie Peugeot, where the relationship with the market is reverse : user displays his intentions and designs his demand, as in the personal data store where user can share his data with selected vendors and personalize his request. Passive input from the user is then changing in a more active collaborative design: passive insights collected through user-oriented design approach, latent needs uncovered focusing on user observation and ethnographic methods, are evolving toward active contribution of users, who become co-designers. The loop from technology to user has not only becomes reverse, from user to technology; it has also extended beyond limited user feedback: user participates and gets ownership, he becomes an active part of the creation process. If “Users are innovation actors” as stated by Madeleine Akrich, distinguishing 4 main forms of user intervention (shifting the innovation, adapting it, extending it, and diverting it from its original goal), some users act as innovation producers in many domains:

  • Active user contribution is naturally the case in Open Source software, and in the world of intelligent things. Open Source cooperation for business includes OpenVBX or Invox (open source phone systems), marketplaces where others can create value, or advanced model of social CRM such as Giffgaff (“the mobile network run by you”).
  • Collaborative dimension is moving forward in the shaping of Open Source Objects in the Fab Lab. Toyota, Telecoms Korea, Fiat with first “open source” car Mio are other examples of this trend.

  • In “low-tech” innovation like crowd sourced innovations (Wikiepedia or Lewatmana, a multi-sources real-time information network alerting about traffic congestion in the city, based on SMS), the contribution of the user becomes predominant compared to the research in technology. Juggad innovations and Grass root innovations are innovations designed by average citizen entrepreneurs, with low investment: designed by the people for the people, covering village motors, urbanism, water filtration, vaccines, Tata Nanocar, low cost computer, low cost house, they rely on individual self-starting capacity, and capture innovations in the field.
  • Collaborative consumption is a terrific play ground for Social Innovation: “collaborative consumption describes the rapid explosion in swapping, sharing, bartering, trading and renting being reinvented through the latest technologies and peer-to-peer marketplaces in ways and on a scale never possible before” as states Rachel Botsman. 3 types of collaborative consumption are currently emerging: 1)product service systems transfom product into a service (car sharing), 2) redistribution systems act as market places, and 3)collaborative life styles involve couchsurfing, colunching, coworking, choosing.
  • Cooperation touches the start-up domain as well: social product development company such as Quirky (or HackForward) is operating since 2009.

Switching to a marketing point of view brings the same trend. A recent survey by eYeka’s shows high peoples’ motivations to be creative and their willingness to collaborate with brands: a staggering 72,1% of respondents would be willing to co-create with brands if they had the chance to do it. Another Forrester Research found that 61% of all US online adults are willing co-creators. Toward a new innovation OS In this world where digital is pervasive, creation process is easy to share through modularization and distribution. Consequently, the creative product is never finished: it’s a living innovation, in a constant state of arousal, where users continuously shape the service. To some extent, the user is the service. The role of the designer or innovation manager is then to create platforms and toolkit that will help others to design. “Designer as integrator” enriches his role: he unleashes the creative potential of users.

Extending translation theory developed by Callon, which explains the importance of ‘‘translators’’ from engineers to consumers and users, new “translators” of innovation are emerging here. Fostering co-development, nurturing and channeling energies, federating all creative players around a common belief, they enable third party to prototype, visualize and contribute proactively to the innovation ecosystem, and extend customer experience. Modern innovation platforms welcome collective creativity: they set-up appropriate sensors to collect social conversation, allowing an ongoing exchange, and tools to enable co-design:

  • Social conversation is formal (suggestions, feedbacks, expectations …), and tacit  (usage observations, after-sales returns, latent needs …); it can be long-term, “involving people exploring beneath the surface of their lives to get to the real issues they face”;
  • Co-design is active (co-creation, co-development, building value on top of the platform) and orchestrated (recruiting the right individuals to participate, modularizing, distributing & consolidating work, management of community).

Future innovation collaborative platform is multitasks: it compiles data, extracts meaning, confronts the belief inside the organization about consumer knowledge, dispatches and integrates module, and enables a creative ecosystem. Future innovation platform works as a collaborative Operating System. As knowledge circulation in short cycles is the engine of innovation, it’s time for the engine to fire, leveraging on collaborative sparkles.

Credits: orange;;;; Follow @ixchat on twitter Don’t miss a post (4,250+) – Subscribe to our RSS feed and join our Innovation Excellence group!

future of TV - Leading by InnovatingNicolas Bry is a Senior VP at Orange. He’s developed strong expertise in innovation management, creating digital business units with international challenges. He completed a professional thesis on rapid innovation at HEC Business School.

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7 Responses to The Rise of Social Innovation

  1. The UK Government recently issued a report about barter and multilateral trade as a way for businesses to save cash. A copy of the report can be found here:

    “We are all aware of the shortcomings of conventional finance, so it shouldn’t surprise many to learn that the business world has continued to develop alternatives for some time. Both the general concept and the practical implementation of bilateral and multi-lateral barter and ‘nonmonetary’ exchange are not, in fact, new, but what may surprise people is to know how large a share of world trade takes place in non-monetary terms, more than 20% by some accounts, especially in the form of countertrade,”

    Stuart Fraser
    Chairman, Policy and Resources Committee for the City of London
    5 December 2011

    “Barter capacity exchange could act as a major stimulus to both domestic and international trade, something of great interest to all in Government and business seeking to promote sustainable growth and prosperity. Countertrade and barter accounts for a significant and growing percentage of global trade worth over US$ 100bn and accepted by over 100 countries as a form of commerce. London is at the heart of global financial services. It has the right talent and the right regulatory and business environment to ensure that high quality, value creating innovation of the sort which an international capacity exchange could represent, has the best opportunity to succeed.”

    Andrew Levy
    Managing Director, UK Trade and Investment
    5 December 2011

    It should be noted that the SWISS WIR have had a multilateral trade network oprerating as a complimentary currency for approximately 80 years. With more than 80,000 participants performing approximately 1.8 billion swiss francs per annum in transactions between them (Approximately 1% of Swiss GDP).

    WIR has not only been successful but it has survived to the present and thrived because the system provides benefits beyond cushioning its members from economic downturns.

    Other global multilateral barter exchange networks such as the Ormita Commerce Network Barter Exchange ( and offer the ability for businesses to exchange excess capacity for essential goods and services. monetises capacity in areas which are asset rich but cash poor. When credit is hard to come by, surplus capacities are often found wanting of a market. On the other hand, buyers for those products may exist but be unable to afford traditional forms of payment. If both buyer and seller suffer from excess capacity (or able to generate new sales at a lower incremental cost) then a trade can be made without a great deal of cash and the needs of both participants can be met.

    As more cash expenses are offset in this manner the need for national currency is reduced accordingly and the profitability of each subsequent transaction rises.

  2. Braden Kelley says:

    Hello Nicolas,

    The Social Innovation term is already occupied by people seeking innovation for the social good.

    Social Entrepreneurship is occupied by people trying to do good through business.

    And Social Business as a topic area – – exists to incorporate the type of innovation you discuss.

    If you get down to it, open innovation is big enough to incorporate all of the things you mention as I look at it as going outside your four walls to achieve your innovation objectives, which can of course be achieved in many ways.

    Innovating in a social way is just one of the many reasons that businesses need to re-architect themselves to become social businesses.

    I hope you will consider stopping the use of the term ‘Social Innovation’ in this way and leave it for those trying to save the world. :-)


    • Braden, I was thinking the same thing as I read through the article. Very well written article but really not “social innovation” as I have become familiar with the term. I think it is important to separate them terms very clearly as these areas (open innovation and doing good innovation) become larger and more discussed.

      As another point, I’ve been working on my Masters of Science in Creativity and Change Leadership at Buffalo State University. I have chosen the “social innovation” emphasis and the course work is all about doing good with creativity and innovation skills throughout the world. I wouldn’t be as excited about the program if it was really just open innovation.

      • Braden Kelley says:

        I didn’t want to jump in, but people are so confused when it comes to innovation, I feel strongly that we should try and utilize existing terminology where we can, and when a new term is needed we should try and not use a term people have been using widely to mean something completely different.

        Best of luck Geoff on your Masters program. Wow! You’re a busy guy.

        Sorry I missed you at the Front End of Innovation.

        Did get to meet your brother though. ;-)


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  5. Itis actually very complex in this active life to listen news on Television, therefore I only use world wide web for that reason, and get the newest information.

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