Using outside technologies to develop products and licensing intellectual property to external parties will carry a company only so far. The next frontier is to open the business model itself.
Innovation is becoming an increasingly open process thanks to a growing division of labor. One company develops a novel idea but does not bring it to market. Instead, the company decides to partner with or sell the idea to another party, which then commercializes it. To get the most out of this new system of innovation, companies must open their business models by actively searching for and exploiting outside ideas and by allowing unused internal technologies to flow to the outside, where other firms can unlock their latent economic potential.
Let’s be clear about what is meant by the term business model. In essence, a business model performs two important functions: It creates value, and it captures a portion of that value. The first function requires the defining of a series of activities (from raw materials through to the final customer) that will yield a new product or service, with value being added throughout the various activities. The second function requires the establishing of a unique resource, asset or position within that series of activities in which the firm enjoys a competitive advantage.
Open business models enable an organization to be more effective in creating as well as capturing value. They help create value by leveraging many more ideas because of their inclusion of a variety of external concepts. They also allow greater value capture by utilizing a firm’s key asset, resource or position not only in that organization’s own operations but also in other companies’ businesses.
To appreciate the potential of this new approach, consider the following names: Qualcomm Inc., the maker of cellular phone technology; Genzyme Corp., a biotechnology company; The Procter & Gamble Co., a consumer products corporation; and Chicago, the musical stage show and movie. This assortment might appear to be random, but they all have something in common: Each required an open business model in which an idea traveled from invention to commercialization through at least two different companies, with the different parties involved dividing the work of innovation. Through the process, ideas and technologies were bought, sold, licensed or otherwise transferred, changing hands at least once in their journey to market.
Qualcomm used to make its own cell phones and base stations but ceased doing so years ago.1 Now others manufacture those products, and Qualcomm just makes chips and sells licenses to its technologies, period.