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Given all the hype around crowdsourcing, co-creation, wikinomics, open innovation, etc., just wondered if anyone was aware of any really good examples of where collaboration has led to successful innovation, and did these make use of particular tools/technology to support the collaboration?

The question may not be directly relevant to the network science and social network analysis audience here, but I understand that at least some of you look at the structures by which knowledge/information transfers through networks and organisations. The link between this and collaborative approaches maybe tenuous, but as far as this initial scoping research project (see below) is concerned it would be fascinating for us to get feedback from this community, because we are looking for more structured and scientific insight than what's currently being evangelicised in the Web 2.0 space.

Justin Kirby
co-author, Connected Marketing


Project background and purpose

We are carrying out a piece of scoping research for NESTA Connect (The National Endowment for Science Technology and Arts) to develop understanding of how the use of new and emerging collaborative technologies can add value in co-creation and lead to innovations

Traditionally, the search for new ideas has tended to happen ‘behind closed doors’, in research labs and design departments, all carefully protected by intellectual property rights. But this is rapidly changing. Today, innovation is far less controlled and predictable. A good idea can come from (literally) anywhere.

This greater fluidity is hugely positive for innovation. NESTA are developing a range of programmes that encourage people to connect across organisations, places and disciplines. They believe that putting people and organisations together in unusual combinations sparks new ideas and new perspectives on old problems.

It is our view that there is no shortage of “new perspectives on old problems” within the co-creationist space.  What seems to be lacking is any real analysis of how new technologies address the challenges inherent of participation and collaboration, many of which relate to aspects of human behaviour and/or organisational structures – just because you are using a new technology doesn’t mean these challenges disappear.  Advances in technology, and the success of the Open Source development methodology that has led to these advances, may provide a solution to these inherent problems, but so also may other “new ideas and new perspectives” that don’t rely on technology.  

The question we want to address is:  can we find a structured way to assess and/or enhance the likely effectiveness of collaborative work assisted by technology by looking first at some of these inherent barriers to participation and collaboration from those sectors and disciplines which have been discussing, using and evaluating them for over 30 years – rather than those who coming to them for the first time because of the opportunities “Web 2.0” presents – and the hype encouraging its use.  As they say "those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it”…

Preliminary scoping - initial questions

1.  In your experience of collaboration, are there particular models of good practice which you have experience of or can refer us to? 

2. Are you aware of any really good examples of where collaboration has led to successful innovation?  

3. Of these, did any of these make use of particular tools/technology to support the collaboration?

4. In our consideration of tools, collaboration and innovation, can you identify any:
-	people you think it would be useful for us to contact?
-	papers published which would be useful?

5.  Would you be interested in being involved further in this project in any way? (eg be interviewed by our researcher)

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