Moving towards open source innovation

24.07.2015| Christian Kreutz
Open Innovation Slam - to develop energy efficient solutions for urban transport systems

After months of work our software code is finally released to the public for free. Every line of code and all thoughts behind it. Good ideas and probably also so not so good ones. The philosophy behind it all is simple: An idea needs to prove itself and can only be improved if its "recipe" is as transparent as possible. For us at Crisscrossed (, it was our first open source software project  and as an outcome there was the realization that open source innovation is essential for how we collaborate on ideas to make them become reality in a complex world.

Traditionally, collaborative efforts were limited by restrictions such as geographical boundaries. People needed to be in the same physical proximity to work on projects, greatly limiting their scope. Open source projects, and those involving software in particular, are not bound by such confines. Harish Pillay

Or to be more blunt: The whole concept of the Web is made for such an open source innovation approach and closed innovation contradicts the inner logic of how the Internet works.

Open does not mean chaos but smart licenses

Personally, from this journey I have learned that things are in constant change and will continue to change although the majority of companies still drive the old proprietary approach. I started my blog back in 2007 and soon after I was confronted with license questions. That took me to the Creative Commons license from which I have learned that there are some pretty smart licenses that define open and free in quite a formalized way, so that innovation is spurred. For example, you can re-use content, but need to share it under the same condition (e.g. citing the author). The defintion of open from my friends at the Open Knowledge Foundation promotes openness and "ensures quality and encourages compatibility between different pools of open material." So open and free does not mean chaos, in contrary it can be well regulated and formalized and lowers barriers for collaboration. No doubts such an open source innovation approach entails also some challenges to intellectual property rights, but these can be solved through such licenses.

Open source innovation beyond software

My engagement with the Open Knowledge Foundation Germany in the past years, particular around open data, showed me furthermore the enormous potential. Who would have thought that Openstreetmaps is in many cases more accurate than other proprietary mapping service? This open source innovation approach still scares a lot of people and frankly it took me also a while to see how it makes sense with far reaching consequences for international cooperation and business models.

It boils down to one question: "Why would you not open your ...?"

Open source innovation is not limited to open source and free software. The concept has reached various areas such as the Global Village Construction Set, the car company Tesla offering their patents for free or the Maker Movement. Check my previous post with a huge list of examples.

The beauty of open source is that it is a huge ecosystem of innovators who are no longer competing for scarce resources but rather sharing knowledge with others to create new resources and opportunities for others to benefit from these resources. Mark Hinkle

It is a myth that great ideas are invented in a garage by a single person. Ideas are a result of endless conversations, feedback and intense collaboration. I witness it daily on our various projects through – how initial ideas grow to something better and more concrete through constructive feedback.