With open innovation, the presumptions on information sharing are reversed. In the old world of our grandfather’s economy, regional actors presumed that information was confidential unless they took steps to release it (hence, the “press release”). In a world of open networks, we presume to share information unless we take affirmative steps to protect it (hence the proliferation of passwords).
Shifting this presumption is important. It leads to collaborations that form more quickly, as well as collaborations that can evolve to higher levels of sophistication. At its core, the shift involves changing patterns of behavior that are often deeply engrained in a region. In places where the old industrial mindset is still dominant, information is not widely shared. Trust levels among civic leaders are relatively low, and the adaptation process slows.
In contrast, some older industrial cities are moving along a new path. Milwaukee, WI; Rockford, IL; and Holland, MI come to mind. These are places where regional innovation clusters can more quickly form: the water cluster in Milwaukee; the aerospace cluster in Rockford; the electric battery cluster in Holland.
To illustrate the complexity that can quickly arise in a regional innovation cluster, I developed this drawing. (Click on it to enlarge.) The challenge, of course, comes in moving a regional economy in this direction. We have found that old strategy constructs — strategic planning — do not work well in these open networks for a variety of reasons. That’s why we have designed new strategy disciplines expressly for meeting the challenges of designing and managing open, loosely joined networks.